Translating Cultures

Translating Cultures
Perspectives on Translation and Anthropology

Edited by Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman

Oxford • New York

First published in 2003 by Berg Editorial offices: 1st Floor, Angel Court, 81 St Clements Street, Oxford, OX4 1AW, UK 838 Broadway, Third Floor, New York, NY 10003-4812, USA © Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman 2003 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Berg.

Berg is an imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Translating cultures : perspectives on translation and anthropology / edited by Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-85973-740-4 – ISBN 1-85973-745-5 (pbk.) 1. Communication in ethnology. 2. Ethnology–Authorship. 3. Translating and interpreting. 4. Intercultural communication. I. Rubel, Paula G. II. Rosman, Abraham. GN307.5.T73 2003 306—dc21 2003000652

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 1 85973 740 4 (Cloth) ISBN 1 85973 745 5 (Paper)

Typeset by JS Typesetting Ltd, Wellingborough, Northants. Printed in the United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King’s Lynn.

Acknowledgments Notes on Contributors Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Part I: General Problems of Translation 1 Lyotard and Wittgenstein and the Question of Translation Aram A. Yengoyan Translation and Belief Ascription: Fundamental Barriers Todd Jones Translation, Transduction, Transformation: Skating “Glossando” on Thin Semiotic Ice Michael Silverstein vii ix







Part II Specific Applications 4 The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable: Representations of Untranslatability in Ethnographic Discourse Michael Herzfeld Translating Folk Theories of Translation Deborah Kapchan Second Language, National Language, Modern Language, and Post-Colonial Voice: On Indonesian Webb Keane Notes on Transliteration Brinkley Messick –v–








Contents 8 The Ethnographer as Pontifex Benson Saler Text Translation as a Prelude for Soul Translation Alan F. Segal Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Wyatt MacGaffey Are Kinship Terminologies and Kinship Concepts Translatable? Abraham Rosman and Paula G. Rubel







269 285


– vi –

We wish to thank Michael Silverstein. We want to thank President Judith Shapiro and Provost Elizabeth Boylin who were particularly helpful. and especially to Sydel Silverman. Paula Rubel Abraham Rosman New York City – vii – . brought back to each of us the basic issue of translating a different and sometimes strange culture into our language and our culture. Simon Ortiz. As we talked and discussed the papers around a large table. Arnold Krupat. the problem confronting another’s ideas. Kathryn Earle of Berg press has been particularly helpful in organizing the publication of this volume. The participants at the conference included those whose papers comprise the chapters of this volume. Columbia University. We hope that this volume fulfills the expectations of all those who helped to bring it about. grasping what the interlocutor was getting at. held at Barnard College. We are very grateful to the Wenner Gren Foundation which sponsored the conference. Serge Gavronsky. President of the Foundation at that time for her support.Acknowledgments The chapters of this volume were first presented as papers and discussed at a conference. interpreting them. and Alan Segal for their input in helping us to organize the conference. We also wish to thank Mansour Kamaletdinov for all his assistance in preparation of the manuscript and for particular attention to detail. Barnard College provided the venue for the conference. Translation and Anthropology. Some of the points made during those discussions are included in the Introduction to this volume (referenced by name). which made the conference a memorable event. 10–12 November 1998. and in addition Suzanne Blier. and Douglas Robinson. All the papers were circulated before the conference took place. Michael Herzfeld. We would like to thank all of the participants for their particularly illuminating and lively discussion during our meeting. Jean McCurry and her staff made all the necessary arrangements.


etc. politics. He has published extensively on social scructures. the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavior Sciences and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Donne Prize on the Anthropology of Art and has been awarded the Rivers Memorial Medal (Royal Anthropological Institute). the Institute for Advanced Study. the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Social Science Research Council. Webb Keane is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. He is the author of numerous articles in both philosophy and social science journals and is currently working on a volume about reductionism and belief in the Social Sciences. He is the author of eight books. she was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship to translate Moroccan poetry in dialect into English. Ann Arbor.Notes on Contributors Michael Herzfeld is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. the National Science Foundation. history and art of Central Africa and his most recent work is Kongo Political Culture: the Conceptual Challenge of the Particular (2000). religious language. She is the author of Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition (1996) and is currently completing a manuscript on music. poetics. Todd Jones is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nevada. semiotics. Las Vegas. Wyatt MacGaffey is John R. the more recent being Portrait of a Greek Imagination and Anthropology: Theoretical Practice In Culture and Society. Deborah Kapchan is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the winner of the J. B. She writes about performance. In 2001. He has had fellowships and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. music and aesthetics. as well as many articles on missionaries and modernity. Coleman Professor of Social Sciences Emeritus at Haverford College. He is the author of Signs of Recognition: Powers and Hazards of Representation in an Indonesian Society (1997). He has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. – ix – . He was a Ford Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. narrative and trance in the context of the Moroccan Gnawa performance.

Their book The Tapestry of Culture is going into its eighth edition. Abraham Rosman is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. Segal is Professor of Religion and the Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College. Columbia University. He is the author of Conceptualizing Religion (paperback edition 2000) and co-author of UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth (1997).Notes on Contributors Brinkley Messick is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. He has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship as well as grants from the National Science Foundation. Columbia University. Paul the Convert and Charting the Hereafter: The Afterlife in Western Culture. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. He is the author of Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World. Currently. Rubel is Professor Emerita of the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. Professor Saler has held grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation. Paula G. He is the author of The Calligraphic State and is completing a new work on shari’a. She has jointly done research with Professor Abraham Rosman for many years in Iran. the Annenberg Foundation. particularly ethnographic objects. and grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health. Their book The Tapestry of Culture is currently going into its eighth edition. Disneyana and Black American. Alan F. He has done anthropological research with Professor Paula Rubel for many years and they have jointly published many articles and books. the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities and the Wenner Gren Foundation. Second Edition. most particularly ethnographic artifacts in America. the Social Science Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea. Columbia University. They have published many articles and books. –x– . Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea and most recently have been doing research on the collecting of objects. Second Edition. the Melton Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. including Feasting with Mine Enemy: Rank and Exchange among Northwest Coast Societies. His research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council. Benson Saler is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Brandeis University. the Ford Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. They have done research in Iran. a regime of an Islamic State. they are doing research on collecting artifacts. including Feasting with Mine Enemy: Rank and Exchange among Northwest Coast Societies. in the United States. She has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Fulbright Program. and has received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Philippines. Grey Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Anthropology. He was also awarded a fellowship by the John D. He has received grants from the Society of Fellows. and was a member of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and received grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. MacArthur Foundation. Yengoyan is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California. and Egalitarianism among the Mandays of Southeast Mindanao. Aram A. the National Endowment for the Humanities. – xi – . Origin. and Catherine T. and Prophetic Traditions: Conversion among the Pitjantjatjara of Central Australia. Davis. Harvard University. the National Science Foundation. His recent publications include Religion. Hierarchy. and No Exit: Aboriginal Australians and the Historicizing of Interpretation and Theory.Notes on Contributors Michael Silverstein is Charles F. of Linguistics and of Psychology at the University of Chicago. He was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He has recently edited Natural Histories of Discourse with Greg Urban and has contributed to Regimes of Language edited by Paul Kroskrity. the MaxPlanck-Gesellschaft and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Morality.


and individuals who learned these lingua francas and pidgins became the translators and interpreters. Gesture and sign language. These pioneers in cross-cultural communication not only brought back the words of the newly encountered people but also became the translators and communicators of all kinds of information about these people. and to the search for meanings and understandings. This inevitably involves either the translation of words. translation has played a singularly important role. In its broadest sense. which is the goal of anthropology. with the emphasis on science. and who feel that the way to do fieldwork cannot be taught.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Paula Rubel and Abraham Rosman The central aim of the anthropological enterprise has always been to understand and comprehend a culture or cultures other than one’s own. and later as a social science. ideas and meanings from one culture to another. Still others. must be spelled out in detail. for European intellectuals. used in the first instance. or the translation to a set of analytical concepts. One of the reasons for this has been the ongoing internal dialogue about the nature of the discipline. There are those who feel that anthropology is a social science. On the other side are those who emphasize the humanistic face of the field. the role that translation has played in anthropology has not been systematically addressed by practitioners. curiously. think it can only be achieved by “total immersion” and empathy. who focus on achieving understanding of another culture. were soon replaced by lingua francas and pidgins. Since its inception as a discipline and even in the “prehistory” of anthropology. Translation is central to “writing about culture”. even though translation has been so central to data-gathering procedures. They were also the individuals who were the basis for the conceptions which the Others had of Europeans. With the development of anthropology as a formal academic discipline in the mid-nineteenth century. whose methodology. The European explorers and travelers to Asia and later the New World were always being confronted with the problem of understanding the people whom they were encountering. However. and the interpreters of their very differing ways of life. sampling and quantification. translation of course –1– . translation means cross-cultural understanding. and the European public at large. which usually involves analytical concepts.

traders and colonial government officials. nor was there concern with. in the two-volume Ethnology of the Kwakiutl. a speaker of the –2– . anthropologists such as Edward Tylor. the anthropologists of the time were not concerned with questions of translation but only with the information itself. and the ways in which it could be used to buttress the evolutionary schemas and theories which they were hypothesizing. which languages were used. Rubel and Abraham Rosman continued to play a significant role. He himself published the results of his research with the Kwakiutl in the form of texts as. the founding father of professional anthropology in the United States. Though he did not deal with translation in general. or any evaluation of this information in terms of how it was collected. was also not considered. Translation was the modus vivendi. for example. whose languages were in danger of disappearing because of the shift to the use of English. field methodology and the role translation would play in the data-gathering enterprise were not really addressed. At this point in time. emphasized the importance of linguistics and the central role that language played in culture. while they theorized about the development of human society and the evolution of culture. with the Kwakiutl version of the text transcribed in phonetics on the bottom half of the page and the English translation on the top half. Boas recognized that the languages of the New World were organized in a totally different manner than European languages and Latin. In the training of his students he emphasized the necessity of learning the native language. before knowledge of them was lost. At this point in time. Lewis Henry Morgan and Johann Bachofen remained in their offices and libraries at home. This was to record valuable linguistic information about these languages. whether it was based on actual observations or casual conversations. These were the individuals who were in first-hand contact with the “primitive peoples”. and who these interpreters were. Though Boas. the sources of this data were not questioned. using phonetic transcription.Paula G. who were very different from themselves. he did not deal with the question of translation. Such differences in grammatical categories are central to problems of translation. He sent his Columbia University students to various American Indian tribes. which were established during this period. who was doing the translations and what were the methods used. There was a brief note about transcription at the beginning of the work entitled Explanation of Alphabet Used in Rendering Indian Sounds (Boas 1921: 47). Their descriptions of the ways of life of the people they were encountering were being published in the various professional journals and monographs. The students were to collect information about the various aspects of a culture by recording texts in the native language. travelers. The fact that grammatically. But their theories depended upon ethnographic information collected by missionaries. however. Even when anthropologists themselves began to do fieldwork and gather ethnographic data at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. The degree of expertise of these Europeans in the local languages or whether they used interpreters.

surely plays a role in the translation of Kwakiutl to English or English to Kwakiutl. . the authors of Ethnographic Research: A Guide to General Conduct. was never a subject of discussion and seems to have been of minimal importance. in his Introduction to Argonauts of the Western Pacific. . rapidly taking note. was the first anthropologist to systematically address the topic of the procedures which one should use to conduct fieldwork. such a central part of the search for meaning. The same point can be made with respect to structuralism. while the speaker of English does not. . He recognized the importance of acquiring a knowledge of the native language to use it as an instrument of inquiry. Fortes. . in any case would have to be learned) one must make one’s own phonemic one. During the postwar period in America and Britain – despite the turn in interest toward symbolic and later interpretive anthropology with its primary focus on cultural understandings – translation. on the one hand. word for word of each statement” (Malinowski 1961 [1922]: 23–4). in order to understand the nature of the local culture and its meanings. and on the other hand the insights of the author . interpreters or the languages in use by the hegemonic colonial governments. “. He talked about the way in which he himself shifted from taking notes in translation which. They recognized that it was important to use the languages spoken locally and not pidgins. By and large. More recently. but they did not formally consider translation’s impact on their work or their theorizing. at last I found myself writing exclusively in that language [Kiriwinian]. note that fieldwork “. . robbed the text of all its significant characteristics – rubbed off all its points . In the absence of a local writing system (which. . Leach. He noted that “pidgin English” was a very imperfect instrument for gaining information.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Kwakiutl language indicates how he knows about an action a particular individual is performing. – always considered it important to learn the language or languages being used in the areas in which they worked. Malinowski noted the necessity of drawing a line between. requires some systematic understanding of it [the local language] and an accurate transcription. be it a pidgin or Creole. or heard about it from someone else. lingua francas. Acquiring the local language was essential since it was to be used as the “instrument of inquiry”. whether he saw the action himself. . a text devoted to an explication of research methods written for British social anthropologists. using a recognized system like the International Phonetic Alphabet” (Tonkin in Ellen 1984: 181). is also deemed essential. anthropologists trained during the period of the ascendancy of British social anthropology and the functionalist paradigm – such as Radcliffe-Brown. though. They did long periods of intensive fieldwork during which translation was constantly involved. as he noted. . the results of direct observation and of native statements and interpretations. In addition. Cultural meanings and –3– . . Shapera. .” (1961 [1922]: 3). Malinowski. et al. Evans-Pritchard. “. learning the lingua franca of the wider area.

The phonetic recording of the material in the native language is essential. We might call this translation in the first instance. James Clifford and other postmodernists have forced us to reconsider the anthropological enterprise. Since cultural understanding is based on the premise that translation is possible. since the data being analyzed were the products of translation. cultural anthropology is still going through a period of assessment and the rethinking of its goals. In the United States. as his field notes reveal. Is translation from one culture to another possible and if so under what conditions? Can an anthropological researcher control another language adequately enough to carry out a translation? How should a researcher deal with the presence of class dialects. – soon after or in a procedure which combines both. but this has not been the case. Thus. which was also important in the postwar era. He notes further that one should have an appreciation of the reality of what is missed and what is distorted in the very act of understanding. that is “The translator is a traitor”. and it is their translations upon which the anthropologist relies. Rubel and Abraham Rosman understandings were significant for the structuralist enterprise. Field assistants or interpreters may need to be used at first. but often this is not the procedure used. multilingualism and special-outsider language use? What constitutes an acceptable translation. etc. going to do fieldwork in a culture foreign to their own. which Malinowski used.Paula G. what people recount to him or her. Clifford in a recent work finally confronts the issue of translation. usually try to ascertain which language or languages are spoken in the area of their interest and to begin to learn these before they leave their home base or immediately upon arriving at the field site. which we –4– . procedures and raison d’être. appreciating and describing another culture (Clifford 1997). translation is and must be a central concern. How does one approximate as closely as possible the original words and ideas of the culture being studied in the translation? Glossing and contextualizing is one of the methods used. Data that the fieldworker records. this is an excellent time to consider a series of issues arising from the fact that for anthropology. words associated with rituals or conversations and observations may initially be written in the native language to be translated into their own language – English. Postmodernism has been the subject of continuing debate and controversy among American cultural anthropologists. the analysis of the data and the writing of the ethnographic text. yet translation issues were never directly confronted by structuralists. German. one which contains more of the original or source language or one which focuses on the target language and the reader’s understanding? What is the relationship between translation and the conceptual framework of anthropology? At the outset we should explore where translation fits in terms of what anthropologists do during fieldwork. translation and all its aspects should be a primary focus in this discussion. from fieldwork and data gathering to the production of the ethnographic text. He supports the idea embodied in the crucial term traduttore tradittore. Anthropologists.

some of the individuality and specificity of cultural phenomena which translation has revealed “falls by the wayside”. The development of analytical concepts in anthropology was based upon the premise of cross-cultural similarities at a higher analytical level than the generalizations formed about a single culture. may offer some assistance to anthropologists confronting similar problems in their own work. which has recently emerged in the United States as a distinct discipline dealing not only with the historical and cultural context of translation. Though translation in anthropology clearly involves a more complex procedure than literary translation. The ethnographic texts. Translation Studies. some postmodernist anthropologists publish their ethnographic material in very self-reflexive accounts. there were different translation paradigms. Only Boas frequently did publish texts in the same form as they were received from his primary field assistant. These varied in terms of the degree to which translations were oriented toward the target language or to the source language. which describe what happened to them in the field. At this level of generalization. Other anthropologists. This last step is one which some younger American anthropologists today do not wish to take. They usually do not deal with the question of translation. The question of the fit between the cultural understandings of one group and the level of analytical constructs is a very important issue. precisely because they feel that analytical concepts do not cognitively resonate sufficiently with the meanings of the particular culture they have studied.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology will discuss later in greater detail. Taking the postmodern message of subjectivity to heart. but also with the problems associated with translating texts. Clifford has made us very aware of the constructed nature of the ethnographic text and the various messages such texts convey. which anthropologists publish today. –5– . after doing their translations from the source language. What kind of connection should there be between the original text and the translation? Is the role of the translator. More importantly. chose to examine their data in terms of reoccurring patterns of behavior and ideas and present their understandings of the culture in a series of generalizations. some see these analytical concepts as emanating from the hegemonic West to be imposed upon the Third World Others compromising the specificity of their cultural concepts. This emphasizes the humanistic. hermeneutic focus on how the self constructs understandings of the Other. as it is imprinted on the translation. never consist of the data exactly as collected in the field. parallel to the role of the anthropologist as the interpreter of a culture not his own (though some anthropologists today study their own cultures). and the understandings of the other society which they themselves gained. which permit the possibility of considering cross-cultural similarities if such are relevant. George Hunt. The work of translation specialists has revealed that at different historic periods in the Western world. At this level. the translation is in terms of the analytical concepts developed in anthropology.

How to make that difference comprehensible to audiences is the major question at issue. hegemony and cultural dominance are often said to be reflected in translations. and these may differ from and be in conflict with the values of the target culture. expressive of thought and meanings where meanings refer to an empirical reality or encompass a pragmatic situation. It is clear that the translations done by anthropologists cannot help but have ideological implications. at first. This approach emphasizes the commonality and universality of human experience and the similarities in what appear. –6– . to be disparate languages and cultures. The values of the culture of the source language may be different from those of the target language and this difference must be dealt with in any kind of translation. which is usually the aim of the translation. Cultural differences are emphasized and translation is seen as coming to terms with “Otherness” by “resistive” or “foreignizing” translations which emphasize the difference and the foreignness of the text.Paula G. There are those who see translation as a natural act. there is the view that translation. is unnatural. which are being done now in the postcolonial period. The foreignized translation is one that engages “. consisting of thought and meanings. As Basnett notes. which sees it as a mode of communication of objective information. one of the features which translation-studies specialists have strongly emphasized. being the basis for the intercultural communication which has always characterized human existence. “All rewritings. “Translation relationships between minority and majority languages are rarely divorced from issues of power and identity. . The hermeneutic concept of language emphasizes interpretation. seen as the uprooting and transplanting of the fragile meanings of the source language. Hierarchy. The instrumental concept of language. The translation of foreign texts may also reflect the ideological and political agendas of the target culture. especially those which were done during the colonial period. that in turn destabilize universalist theoretical prescriptions on the translation process” (Cronin 1996: 4). Competing models of translation have also developed. How does one preserve the cultural values of the source language in the translation into the target language. As Cronin notes. readers in domestic terms that have been defamiliarized to some extent” (Venuti 1998: 5) These models clearly reveal the ideological implications of translation. Translating is seen as a “traitorous act”. In contrast. . Rewriting is manipulation. The values of the local culture are a central aspect of most of the cultural phenomena which anthropologists try to describe. undertaken in the service of power and in its positive aspect can help in the evolution of a literature and a society” (Basnett in Venuti 1995: vii). These features are also said to be present in translations. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Translation theory rests on two different assumptions about language use. where the latter shape reality and the interpretation of creative values is privileged (Venuti 2000: 5). whatever their intention reflect a certain ideology and a poetics and as such manipulate literature to function in a society in a given way.

. This direction. in his famous essay entitled “The Task of the Translator”. notions of cultural and linguistic relativity began to come to the fore. . at the expense of the subaltern nations and peoples around the world. pitted against hegemonic English language nations and the unequal cultural exchanges in which they engage their global others” (Venuti 1995: 20). foreign texts are seen as entities with invariants. a translation constituted the continued life of the original. who wrote “On the Different Methods of Translating” in 1813.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology What constitutes “fidelity” to the original text? Walter Benjamin. instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. restrain the ethnocentric violence of translation and is an intervention . that all cultures are unique and different and that cultural translation is a difficult if not impossible task but that cultural translation into a Western language should be attempted since cross-cultural understanding is an important goal. which produces in it the echo of the original” (Benjamin 1923 in Venuti 2000). levels and categories of language and textuality. thought that a translation could move in either of two directions: either the author is brought to the language of the reader or the reader is carried to the language of the author. capable of reduction to precisely defined units. In the latter case. . The nineteenth-century German theorist Schleiermacher. –7– . . and others. . Minoritizing translation which relies on discursive heterogeneity contrasts with fluency which is assimilationist. notes that “The task of the translator consists of finding that intended effect [intention] into which he is translating. Benjamin sees the basic error of the translator as preserving the state “. Moving in the direction of the reader is referred to as the domestication of translation. to what extent any language may be transformed” (Benjamin in Venuti 2000: 22). To him. when the reader is forced from his linguistic habits and obligations to move within those of the author. in which his own language happens to be. . there are also some who support the position that at some level of generalization there are universals of language and culture. is that in this way translation has served the global purposes of the Western modernized industrial nations. Foreignizing translation is a way of rectifying the power imbalance by allowing the voice of these latter nations to be heard in their own terms. according to Venuti (1998: 12) In the 1970s in the United States. discussed above. Given this perspective. It is not generally realized to what extent this is possible. Benjamin is seen by translation specialists as espousing what is referred to as “foreignizing translation”. The position of Venuti. Foreignizing a text means that one must disrupt the cultural codes of the target language in the course of the translation. there is actual translation (Venuti 2000: 60). However. led to the postmodernist position. This approach would seem to be compatible with the goals of anthropology. in anthropology. This method seeks to “. He must expand and deepen his language by means of the foreign language.

As Nida describes it. the message in the receptor language should match as closely as possible the different elements of the source language. in his discussion of inanimate nouns which are personified by gender. . takes his perspective from Pierce.Paula G. A good translation should fulfil the same purpose in the new language as the original did in the source language. and points out that “. He cites an excellent example of the kind of supplementary information. Clearly. and make as close an approximation as possible. and in what they may convey (Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000: 114). But Nida also attends to the needs of the reader. . the word is masculine and therefore represented as a man (Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000: 117). or in ways in which such symbols are arranged in phrases and sentences. and inter-semiotic translation – the interpretation of verbal signs by signs of a non-verbal sign system. he is seen as being in the camp of those who advocate the “domestication” of –8– . as did Boas before him. the word death is feminine. Jakobson distinguishes between intra-lingual translation – the rewording or interpretation of verbal signs by other signs of the same language. manner of thought. Therefore. . This would seem to be a prescription which most anthropologists should follow in their own fieldwork. the meaning of a linguistic sign is its translation into some further alternative sign. especially one which is more fully developed ”(Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000). represented as a woman. it stands to reason that there can be no absolute correspondence between languages . distinctions of this sort are significant when one does any type of translation. while in German. . One must reproduce as literally and meaningfully the form and content of the original. How close can any translation come to the original text or statement? Nida notes that “Since no two languages are identical either in meanings given to corresponding symbols. that the grammatical pattern of a language determines those aspects of experience which must be expressed and that translations often require supplementary information since languages are different in what they must convey. constant comparison of the two is necessary to determine accuracy and correspondence. Phillips’ method of back translation in which equivalencies are constantly checked is one way to achieve as exact a correspondence as possible. . the impact may be reasonably close to the original but no identity in detail” (Nida 1964 in Venuti 2000: 126). He recognized. One should identify with the person in the source language. inter-lingual translation – translation proper. The cultural context of the translation must always be presented. For this reason. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Jakobson. noting that the translation should be characterized by “naturalness of expression” in the translation and that it should relate to the culture of the “receptor”. . It should have the feel of the original. whose research has had significance for both linguists and anthropologists. which must be provided. the process of translation must involve a certain degree of interpretation on the part of the translator. the semiotician. In Russian. the interpretation of verbal signs by means of some other language. no fully exact translation . understand his or her customs. and means of expression.

since “that which unites mankind is greater than that which divides. Venuti sees people like Nida as emphasizing semantic unity while those who emphasize foreignization stress discontinuities and the diversity of cultural and linguistic formations. Different societies have different traditions regarding translation. The solution. Though the equivalence should be source-oriented. one must keep in mind that Nida’s work. violent rewriting of the foreign text” (Venuti 1995: 24). the goal is to present the different aspects of the culture or society being examined in a “translation” which is as true to the original as possible. and emotive elements of meaning of the original (Nida in Venuti 2000: 139–40). including using footnotes to illuminate cultural differences when close approximations cannot be found. The differences of the foreign text are to be stressed. hence even in cases of very disparate languages and cultures there is a basis for communication” (Nida in Venuti 2000: 24). and should have the same effect upon the receiving audience as the original had on its audience (Nida in Venuti 2000: 134). A foreignized translation is one which reflects and emphasizes the cultural differences between source and target languages. irony. Nida’s theories are based on a transcendental concept of humanity as an essence unchanged by time and space. Fluency is the dominant idea for the English. regarding the methods the translator should use to get the closest approximation of the source language. Venuti also talks about “the illusion of transparency”. is informed by missionary values since he developed his science of translation with the express purpose of being used by missionaries in their task of translating biblical and religious texts for use by people speaking languages in remote parts of the world. being sensitive to the style of the original. In anthropology. This is what has been referred to above as glossing. rather than colloquial and archaic language though the translator may see the latter as more suitable in conveying the meanings and genre of the original. in general. the translation must make sense and convey the spirit and manner of the original.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology translation. and the need to convey the sarcasm. In Nida’s eyes. Since domesticating the text is said to exclude and conceal the cultural and social –9– . is some sort of dynamic equivalence that balances both concerns. . as he sees it. at the same time it must conform to and be comprehensible in the receptor language and culture. He also talks about problems of translating the emotional content of the original. making the translator and the conditions under which the translation was made invisible. . No concessions should be made to make the description more acceptable and palatable to the target audience except for intelligibility. translation being seen as the “. This means that there is a preference for the use of current English usage in translation. The importance of immediate intelligibility is associated with the purely instrumental use of language and the emphasis on facts (Venuti 1995: 1–5). However. whimsy. The Science of Translation. meaning that the translation must be characterized by easy readability. Nida goes into details in his volume.

The view that language itself is indeterminate and the signifying process unstable would seem to preclude the possibility of any kind of adequate translation. anthropologists need to deal with these different aspects of translation and to concern themselves with which kind of balance should be achieved in the work that they do. which relates more directly to translations by anthropologists. . seeks to match [the] polyvalences or plurivocatives or [the] – 10 – . not an unchanging unified essence” (Venuti 1995: 18). The turn toward thinking. This is what is referred to as glossing. . the theme of untranslatability in translation theory” (Venuti 2000: 218). dominated and limited the translator’s options (Venuti 1995: 810). the inherent indeterminacy of language. Clearly. . as well as the unavoidable instability of the signifying process. Translation is doomed to inadequacy because of irreducible differences not only between languages and cultures. Interestingly. . .Paula G. The polysemy of languages and the heterogeneous and diverse nature of linguistic and cultural materials which “ destabilize signification” and make meaning plural and divided. many subscribe to the counter-argument. this is referred to as “the ethnocentric violence of translation”. incompatibilities will always be present which must be dealt with by additional discussion and contextualization. Rubel and Abraham Rosman conditions of the original text to provide the illusion of transparency and immediate intelligibility. Meaning itself is seen as a “. It is therefore usually necessary to supply supplementary information. is that the foreign text depends upon its own culture for intelligibility. When a text is retranslated at a latter period in time. holding that translation is possible if it “. are now seen as complicating factors in translation (Venuti 2000: 219). what we called glossing above. Other translation specialists talk about the need to seek functional equivalence even if one must make explicit in the target language what is implicit in the source language (Levy in Venuti 2000: 167). However. eventually becoming like a bilingual (Quine 1959 in Venuti 2000: 108). are seen as problems which must be overcome if one is to do a translation. . annotations and the like to anthropological translations. Quine suggests that one “. An important point raised. developed during the early modern period. One must realize in the target language the textual relations of the source language with no breach of the target language’s basic linguistic system. plural and contingent relation. . steep oneself in the language disdainful of English parallels to speak it like a native. . The “canonization of fluency in English language translations”. This is especially necessary when the source language and its culture have no exact linguistic and cultural equivalent in the target language. revived “. it frequently differs from the first translation because of the changes in the historical and cultural context. However. which emphasizes cultural relativity. Irreducible differences in language and culture. but within them as well. Venuti sees the foreign text itself as the site of “many different semantic possibilities” which any one translation only fixes in a provisional sense.

Translations should. . “Translation when it occurs has to move whatever meanings it captures from the original into a framework that tends to impose a different set of discursive relations and a different construction of reality” (Frawley in Venuti 2000: 268). The inadequacies of the translation must be dealt with in an accompanying commentary. that otherness. whose ideas we have detailed above. . In the final analysis. professional or nonprofessional. The question at issue is how to achieve this balance. and continues in the analysis of data and in decisions as to the nature of the ethnographic text which will be produced. This begins in the field. A translation strategy based on an aesthetic of discontinuity can best preserve that difference. Translation – 11 – . The nature of translation must be shifted to emphasize the resistance of the latter to the domination of the former. translation has become a battleground between the hegemonic forces – the target culture and language. in the final analysis. Venuti’s remarks parallel the position of most anthropologists. a transfer of codes. it is a matter of the balance or trade-off between the need to be comprehensible to the particular readership of the text and the need to convey as much of the original as is possible. “Translation is a process that involves looking for similarities between language and culture – particularly similar messages and formal techniques – but it does this because it is constantly confronting dissimilarities.. should take place on the semantic. there are many features of translation in anthropology which are unique. but a form of translation can still take place. To Venuti. As Frawley notes. As Venuti notes. Synonymy is not necessarily possible. and the formerly subjugated non-Western world. Where does translation in anthropology stand in this ongoing dialogue in Translation Studies? Certainly. However. In some ways. A translated text should be the site at which a different culture emerges. The transformations. In this respect. On the other hand.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology expressive stress of the original . in the recording of information. where a reader gets a glimpse of a cultural other and resistency. by reminding the reader of the gains and losses in the translation process and the unbridgeable gaps between cultures” (Venuti 1995: 305). writing a popular version of one’s ethnographic text is itself a translation from the ethnographic text. The concerns of anthropologists regarding translation are similar to many of the concerns of translation specialists. which a translation embodies. Translation is a re-codification. anthropology tries to preserve as much as possible of the source culture and language (the object of investigation) in the “translation” or ethnography. syntactic and discursive levels. It can never and should never aim to remove these dissimilarities entirely. [resisting the] constraints of the translating language and interrogates the structure of the foreign text” (Lewis in Venuti 2000: 218). the text must be comprehensible to the readership of that text. negotiate the linguistic and cultural differences between the source language and culture and that of the target audience for the translation. which is oriented toward the professional anthropologist.

moulding our perceptions of the universe around us” (Werner and Campbell 1970: 398). are very relevant to the issue of translation. most linguists have not been concerned with the relationship and implications of their theoretical ideas to the translation of culture. asserts that human beings speaking different languages do not live in the same ‘real’ world with different labels attached: they live in different worlds – language itself acts as a filter on reality. is in clear opposition to Chomsky’s ideas of the universality of mental structures pertaining to language. and the writing of the ethnographic text parallel only in part the translation of literary texts. and those of which there are only a finite number of possible permutations (Silverstein in Chapter 3). The translation of kinship terminology as it relates to the finite number of variations in the sphere of kinship is explored by Rosman and Rubel in Chapter 11. etc.Paula G. which combines linguistic determinism with linguistic relativity. there is another kind of translation which ethnographers perform as we have noted above. however. Rubel and Abraham Rosman within the context of fieldwork. What has been referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis “. social organization. meaning its translation into some Western language. . in which loyalty to one language. . loyalty of meaning and equal familiarity and colloquialness in each language which [to them] contrasts with asymmetrical or unicentered translation. Linguistic theories regarding the nature and characteristics of language. still an important concern for many anthropologists today. The translation of the “meanings” of a culture into analytical concepts for the purpose of cross-cultural comparison has no equivalent in literary translation. which we have noted above. will “translate” what has been found on the local level into a series of analytical concepts which will then enable comparison with other societies. In addition to the ethnography as the translation of a culture in order to understand it. Translation relates the local and particular to the universal or semi-universal by relating the local or the source culture to a set of analytical concepts. One might call these “natural normativities”. that is the features of human existence. Symmetrical or decentered translation would seem to be similar to Nida’s idea of dynamic equivalence. Werner and Campbell talk about symmetrical or decentered translation which aims at both “. In – 12 – . discussed above. who sees societies as having similarities as well as differences. which are universal. usually the source language dominates (Werner and Campbell 1970: 398–9). . the subsequent analysis of the field material to gain understanding of the meanings and behaviors of a people other than one’s own. The fact that translations are possible would seem to negate the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis and support the theory of Chomskian universals. The development of analytical concepts presumes that there is a limited number of natural possibilities when it comes to cultural categories like kinship. The ethnographer. . Unfortunately. The development of analytical categories has been based upon this important premise of a finite number of possibilities. This principle.

always involves intentionality. and must be translated. when people say or write something. But we must pay attention to how we translate the thinking and intent of the speaker of those words. sees all languages as formally similar in their deep structures. which is impossible. The translation should capture what the words were intended to mean. What people say or write. affect may be visible and reveal intention. factors such as affect may reveal intentions which may be different from the words themselves. In the translation of oral material associated with ritual. constitute the setting or context of the material. Yet should this not be part of the translation? In the context of anthropological fieldwork. Finding coordinates does not mean exact translation. as we noted above. Affect and intentionality are culturally specific. which may subsequently be translated. Greeks don’t know what is in another’s head. the performance aspect is also relevant to the translation. In oral presentation. but rather searching for the best approximation. Intention may be intuited from external factors. This data is important for the translation itself. focus on the source language characterizes many literary translations. is another issue which must be considered. as Herzfeld notes in Chapter 4. in general. but can be said to violate boundaries and the intimacy of the cultural setting within which he or she is working. When the fieldworker records information from informants. The translation of affect and psychological states. When we translate words and their meanings. Even intra-culturally. the intention may not be immediately comprehensible. In decentered translation. Behind this is the assumption that there is more similarity and less difference (in contrast to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which assumes the opposite). yet they attribute intentionality to individuals. we are ascribing intention to a speaker. making the source and target languages coordinate (Werner and Campbell 1970: 402). the thinking of the individual. Hence. Sometimes the translation of the words themselves may not immediately reveal intention. The lexical fields provide the contexts within which one searches for equivalencies. clearly relate to translation and to the understanding of the intent of the words which are being translated. nor what the speaker is thinking when he or she speaks. The way in which these operate and are conceptualized in particular societies. it is essential for the translator to pay attention to the setting of the translation.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology contrast. Some raise the question of whether translation can deal with psychological states and issues of affect. The translator must try to do this inter-culturally as well as intraculturally. which are based on cultural conventions. which may sometimes not be included or indicated in the translation. Affect and emotions. Underlying this conceptualization of symmetrical equivalence is Chomsky’s transformational theory which. a set of equivalent or near-equivalent sentences of the source language is seen as corresponding to a similar set of sentences in the target language. since it is part of the message being conveyed. The translator not only crosses. Cultural intimacy – 13 – .

Though translation crosses boundaries. How does translation relate to “stealing words”? Stealing words has significant meanings in some cultural settings. as opposed to what is external. In this time of “globalization”. which is divined in other ways. Differing translations at different points in time reflect different style and ideas about translation. anthropologist or not. Does translation constitute “stealing words”? What does the actual process of translation involve? According to views expressed at the conference by Silverstein. This distinction must be considered in any translation. When there are a diversity of “translations” the question arises regarding which of several translations should be “the” translation. Ideas about meaning are different from one culture to another and one must understand them in their own terms. on the other hand. It is intention not words that count to them. These clearly relate to local or folk theories about meanings or what some refer to as folk psychology. categories of language which are inter-translatable. stealing words is the sign of the true Cretan man.Paula G. It is here that dialects may operate in contrast to the “official” or national language. Translation can also be seen as a betrayal since it can be said to violate the cultural intimacy of the “inside” (Herzfeld in Chapter 4). it can be said to create boundaries. There is another point of view which says that words do tell intentions. gives an example of Islamic jurists and their theories of translation. Translation can also be said to constitute a bridge to the target audience. in particular. We may raise the question of whether the notions of translation of the translator. The words that are used are not representative of intention. Need one translation be promoted over others or is a diversity of translations desirable? The anthropologist. and this difference must be considered. recognizes that there are always local or folk theories and ideas about translation. Rubel and Abraham Rosman is what is goes on “inside” a cultural group. this is a significant process which needs to be investigated. How do local processes of translation deal with foreign “things” and “domesticate” or translate them? What does it mean to translate locally (Keane in Chapter 6)? How do local people incorporate ideas and material objects which come from the outside? This is also a kind of translation. Translations are negotiations between that local experience and the target language – the kind of dynamic equivalence referred to above. Political factors may be involved in the decision about which translation is “the translation”. in Chapter 7. It depends on the meanings of information and knowledge and the local notion of possession (Keane in Chapter 6). and that one can analyze words though they lack certainty. that is. This linguistics project is based on a universal grammar and specific grammatical structures. Messick. but not in others. According to Herzfeld. one subjects the words and the expressions of language A in a text to grammatical analysis and one then finds in language B a grammatical analysis which conforms to the grammar in language A. may contrast with or even violate the folk theories of the source language and culture. as we have noted above. This involves – 14 – .

but translation is the communication of cultural knowledge. There are areas of grammar where this can be done (Silverstein). and translation which is transduction. This universal cognitive structure would require a kind of natural meta-language. one should use the native term and show how it works in their conceptual economy. understanding is a requisite for good translation. in Chapter 2. how does it function in cognitive and social settings? According to Jones. “What does the native term do” (Jones)? This approach has been a standard anthropological technique. One must also distinguish between translation which is word for word. The presence of a range of differences is what makes translation a matter of judgment or guess. The translator or interpreter himself or herself may be said to constitute a boundary or border (Robinson). Comparative grammar anchors the translation. is translation where sense-for-sense or category equivalents are sought (Silverstein). (Does the development of pidgins relate to this?) Clearly this relates to the discussion above regarding use of analytical concepts at successively higher levels of abstraction. As we noted above. and deal with its “doxastic” surround (Jones). The latter. a shared or implicitly shared set of cultural beliefs. – 15 – . with all that they encompass. However. The individual mind operates in a cultural context. Silverstein makes the point that the problem of translation is cultural not individual. What does a belief do. and are sociocentric – that is. be translated? Saler. Translation is a matter of comparing systems of contextualization of one language and culture with systems of contextualization of another. Jones. by and large. sees belief as a relational entity. including their counterintuitive aspects and inconsistencies. Translation also separates what is self and what is other. involving social relationships. Therefore when we translate. translation bridges boundaries and enables understanding across boundaries. transforming as well as crossing boundaries (Silverstein). part of a social organization and structure of authority (Silverstein). in which comparative grammar or structural equivalents anchor the translation. it is not simply propositional knowledge ascribed to the individual mind which is involved. which are systems or categories of differentiation. and motivation which we have discussed above. How to translate genre forms and preserve the various aspects of genre which are so significant to form is an important question. in Chapter 8 of this volume. Translation breaks down genre. as we noted above. Every act of translation is a social act. “stereotypic knowledge”. Genre relates to intentionality. used not only for belief systems. affect. Can belief systems. Translating the idea of the virgin birth is the same sort of problem. Alternatively. transduction. one could translate the native term into an abstract syntactic primitive relating to the kind of universal syntactic cognitive structure we have discussed above. A text has a context.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology structural equivalence. considers the way in which the Spanish tried to translate ideas about the Trinity and the difficulties encountered.

As is the case for all texts. However. creating a picture of it for the outside world. The position of the translator in a particular culture needs to be ascertained historically. with their distortions. which may not have equivalents in the target language. To what extent can the public accept the provisionality of the anthropologist’s account? Some say they can (Herzfeld at the conference). we all recognize that newer thinking and developments in the field may require us to revisit that reading and improve it in the light of new developments at some future date. that it catches all the meanings and nuances of the original. The public needs to be educated about the provisional nature of anthropological categories. which Kapchan in Chapter 5 describes as “conditional in its authority”. the anthropologist must present “some reading of the culture”. This is necessary in order to refute the Native American critique that we are not translating “their categories” but imposing our own categories. the role. Others see this provisionality as undercutting anthropology as a discipline (Jones at the conference). For example. the best account or “translation of the culture” for this time (Yengoyan at the conference). The translator is in a sense a trickster: he or she can clarify or obfuscate. As the anthropologist gains in knowledge and understanding. the “translation” of the culture will be progressively more accurate. status and identity of the translator is also an issue. There is a difference regarding this point if we are talking about the anthropological public or the general public. Anthropologists are listeners who are “translating” the local culture. as noted earlier in this introduction (Ortiz). mediators or bridges in the colonial situation. newer translations or Church texts such as the Bible have been done over time and this belies the idea that there is a fixity of religious beliefs (Blier). a descriptive ethnography. However. A perfect translation is a utopian dream – 16 – . with all its “imperfections”. What he or she produces is an ethnographic text. It seems unlikely that a translation can be perfect. paralleling the storyteller’s performance of a classical Arabic text. but they are also seen as outsiders or marginals. that is. The translator is a mediator between the local society and the outside world. some product. upon them and other native peoples. and there must be some closure. those local people who were able to learn the language of the colonial power themselves came to be in powerful positions as a consequence of their being middlemen. Some say that the closure of knowledge is bad (Kapchan). To which side does her or she hold allegiance? He or she may be a person of greater or lesser authority (Kapchan). Rubel and Abraham Rosman In the situations in which the anthropologist usually works. There are different norms in regard to the position of the translator in different societies. In colonial situations. We may say that this is the best we can do at this time. which must involve glossing and contextualizing local concepts. the anthropologist’s text is conditional in nature.Paula G. and the way in which anthropologists “translate” native categories. a powerful critique. or anthropologists will not be taken seriously or listened to (Jones at the conference).

The power dimension and power differentials were clearly operative throughout this process. diglossia is operative. Examining ethnographies will reveal that though anthropologists frequently present exact quotes which are translations. Even intra-lingual communication itself is not perfect. In Papua New Guinea. for example. We know this empirically. the transcription and subsequent translation. Boas himself was concerned with the transcription of oral texts and the use of phonetics to accomplish that task. But with growing nationalism. transliteration and transcription became issues of concern. the minor language. Such asymmetrical stratification of languages is universal. In earlier times. Translation in such a situation becomes a problem of translating the multilingual “mix” people are using and the significance of language shifting as it occurs. Neomelanesian or.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology (Jones). In many societies. but rather to deceive. Multilingualism was a significant feature of Papua New Guinea society. The anthropologist must also be concerned with the way in which quotations appear in the ethnographic text itself. It is of significance not only when one works with a local group with only an oral tradition. The poorer classes speak Haitian Creole. Translated native literature often becomes a commodity. learning the native language only to a minimal degree. Working with African-Americans. into the major language and the signifier of Haitian nationalism and independence. use of the localized language alone was often seen as hindering an upwardly mobile individual. while learning the standard language was seen as liberating. Pidgin English or Police Motu were lingua francas used by people speaking many different frequently nonintelligible local languages. one has the same problem in representing Black English. be set up in block form separate from the ongoing text or is some other method more clearly a “translation” of the quote? When anthropologists began to deal with written texts. the writing down of native oral literature was an important task. or knowledge of the local language on the part of the anthropologist can often be ascertained from the ethnography. and this can only be done by phonological transcription (Silverstein). often related to class and upward mobility. while the upper classes speak French. some anthropologists would do their research in Pidgin or a local lingua franca. – 17 – . in particular. The degree of facility in. as it was known earlier. As noted earlier. The speaker’s intention may be not to be understood. Anthropologists doing fieldwork in diglossic situations have to make decisions regarding which language they will use in their fieldwork. one should acquire facility in the languages being used and the nature of the code switching being done and the significance of the language shifting present. In anthropology. they must use the method of glossing and contextualizing words in order to fully understand what those quotes mean (Messick). there has been a movement to make Creole. Transcription creates an artifact from an oral event. In many societies such as Haiti. In field situations such as these. Should they.

and its subsequent control and domination. and is a much discussed topic. The anthropologist must determine in particular situations – 18 – . anthropology. as Said has noted. . the colonial ‘subject’ – constructed through technologies or practice of power/knowledge – is brought into being within multiple discourses and on multiple sites. The action or performance aspect is equally important in providing meanings which are to be translated. Visual conventions certainly will affect the way in which the reader responds to a translated text. importantly involved the process of translation. in Chapter 5. the performance aspect of the translation is a significant factor in determining receptor response. The translator’s preface and notes must discuss the decisions which have been made regarding the modes of representation which the translator has chosen to use.Paula G. In the colonial context. The colonized population had to be represented in a particular manner so as to justify colonial domination. One such site is translation” (Niranjana 1992: 1–2). . As noted above. it can be considered an act of betrayal. “. Niranjana notes. There is a difference between what translation means locally and our ideas about what we should translate. and untranslated in the eyes of a particular group. the practices of subjection implicit in the colonial enterprise operate not merely through the coercive machinery of the state. reinforced “hegemonic” versions of the colonized in which they acquired the status of representations or objects without history. Anthropologists doing translations of oral performances must attend not only to the words of the ritual. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Oral. translation always has political implications. Translation. as Saler points out in his Chapter 8 in this volume. since they are considered “untranslatable” locally. How does translation deal with these different forms (Yengoyan)? One could say further that print culture reworks the notion of knowledge and discourse (Yengoyan). philology. it might have deleterious effects. history. the power differential was always an important factor in the nature of the translation. These became facts which governed events in the colonies (Niranjana 1992: 3) To whom are we answerable when we do a translation? This is a matter of ethics as well as power differentials. using certain modes of representation of the Other. An ethical position requires that the effects of a translation on local populations always be considered. linguistics and literary interpretation. for if the material is translated. The performativity aspect of a translation are also of some importance. written and printed texts are different modes of representation and need to be distinguished. There are things which are “dangerous” to translate. The conquest by the Western industrialized countries of much of the rest of the world. The first question posed is whether we translate at all. If we do translate in such situations. within which many anthropologists worked. but through discourses of philosophy. In Kapchan’s discussion of local translators who interpret classical Arabic texts in oral performances. Often sacred rituals and spells must be kept secret.

Introduction: Translation and Anthropology which cultural materials it is not ethical to translate. Some years ago an anthropologist doing fieldwork with the Cherokee in Oklahoma wrote an article in Current Anthropology, detailing the reasons why he did not publish the results of his research. He felt it was unethical to describe rituals which the Cherokee had revealed to him but considered to be sacred and not to be revealed to the outside world. Since what “they” mean by translation and what “we” mean by it may not be the same, translation may sometimes have difficult and unforeseen consequences. The ethical issue involves us in rethinking our own assumptions about our enterprise. We must consider what we do and why we do it and our assumption of our role as “translators” of the cultures and ways of life of others. We are mediators between two worlds, metaphorically like priests with the anthropologist having the sacerdotal authority of priests (Saler at the conference). Though translation always starts with a prescriptive approach to equivalence, the social context, the politics, whom the translation is being done for, why and how, as well as the translator’s relationship to those in the source and those in the target cultures, often determine the nature of the translation. Some Native Americans may resist translation, feeling that anthropologists “don’t translate but they impose” (Ortiz). Anthropologists are seen as interfering “(fucking around)” with people’s souls and with reality (Ortiz). One Native American expressed the feeling that even Native American anthropologists themselves are “torn apart” in the context of their anthropological research with their own people, in terms of what they do or do not reveal and translate. As anthropologists, we use particular concepts and words which are seen by non-anthropologists as jargon. The use of these concepts is seen as imposing categories upon the culture and way of life of the people, acting as a counter to the uniqueness of their culture, and serving to distort the encounter between the anthropologist and the native person. Some Native Americans in the Southwest have reached the point of refusing anthropologists permission to do research in their communities, even to the point of putting up signs that say “White man Keep Out”. In a curious way, although translation crosses boundaries it also creates barriers and antagonism. As we noted above, mistranslation is sometimes intentional, and falsification and mistranslation for political purposes sometimes occur. For example, Blier (at the conference) noted the fact the Freud, in his work on Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, did not discuss the horns on Moses’ head. These horns represent a deliberate and intentional mistranslation of “rays of light” from the Bible into horns, and was a way of demonizing Jews, in line with the general anti-Semitic attitude of the Catholic Church at that time. Obfuscation versus faithfulness is the issue here. Translation clearly involves dangers and difficulties for all who translate including anthropologists (Saler). One might pose the question, is faithfulness of translation always important? Are there situations where this axiom is not or should not be held to? – 19 –

Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman In what ways may translations be critiqued? Some say that only translators themselves can critique translations. One could also say that only an ethnographer who has done fieldwork in the same society can criticize an anthropological translation. For literary translations, it is the translation itself into the target language which has priority. The style and poetics exhibited in the translation are usually the basis for critical judgments. In anthropology, those who translate oral ritual and mythic materials have debated whether prose or poetic form better reflects the essence of this material, but this is clearly not a major aspect of translation in anthropology. Making decisions about the acceptance of an ethnographic text as a good translation relate to the ethnographer’s knowledge of the language as well as to various other factors such as the anthropologist’s grasp of the internal logic of the system and its meaning. The categorizations and classifications found in particular cultures, as we have noted above, are significant and this is true of the concept of translation itself. Only recently has the term “translation” been reduced in the scope of its meaning in the Western World to refer only to the translation from one language to another. Earlier, during the Renaissance, for example, it had many more meanings, and a much fuller semiotic range. Included in that range of meanings was the use of the word to refer to the movement or translation of souls or the body to heaven and the movement of something from one place to another (Segal in Chapter 9). Architecture is also seen as a form of translation. This is understandable if one sees architecture and language as homologous structures (Blier). However, one must recognize that many subject matters which we now see as distinct and separate categories had not been recognized as separate domains earlier. For example, in the West, the category, “art”, crystallized in the seventeenth century as did that of “religion” (Saler). As we can see, we in the West have our own categories which have changed through time. We must always be aware that indigenous categories may frequently differ from our own and we should not simply impose our categories in our translations. In the field situation we must be aware of the possibility of this difference. For example, Navajo sand painting has now come to be considered art by the Western world. Among the Navajo, the sand painting and its method of construction is part of the curing ritual. It is a transitory phenomenon whose existence is not prolonged after the ritual is concluded. A comparison of our discussion of translation studies and that concerning translation and anthropology reveals that translation is conceived of differently disciplinarily. Many of the issues with which literary translation and the literary critiques of translation are concerned do not parallel issues of concern to anthropologists in their translations (Yengoyan). We mentioned above the discussion relating to whether Native American cultural materials should be translated into prose or poetic forms. The aesthetic form of the translation is one factor with which literary translators concern themselves more than anthropologists do in their – 20 –

Introduction: Translation and Anthropology translations. Though the particular genres which are used in anthropological translations, the style and voice, the losses and gains, as well as the nature of the transliteration if that is involved, all constitute problems with which anthropologists must deal (Keane, Yengoyan). In our discussion of the various contributions of Translation Studies, concern for and emphasis upon the “consumer” of the translation and his or her comprehension was seen as an important issue. In a way, it is not only translators but also consumers who produce meaning (Herzfeld at the conference). They bring their own background and sensibility to the comprehension of the translation, though the translator still has the primary role of constructing the meaning of the translation. It is he or she who, in the final analysis, controls what is put out to the consumer. The cultural biases, conscious or unconscious, are operative unless the translator controls for these in the production of the translation. The anthropologist, in the “translation” of the local culture, sometimes conveys a particular message, as for example Malinowski, whose “translation” of the Trobriand Islanders was intended to convey the message of the “prelogical savage” (Yengoyan). Other anthropologists like Mead had their own sense of translation. In some of her ethnologies, the translation presented was consumer-oriented, that is, intended for the general public. One might further argue that the particular theoretical framework, which the anthropologist brings to the field situation, including the meta-theory of anthropology, has an effect on the “translation” of the local culture which is being made. It determines what is held back, what is pushed, in terms of what the translator thinks the receiver should receive (Yengoyan). In an interesting way, during this postmodern period, James Clifford and others have become “translators” for the discipline of anthropology, examining and deconstructing what we do for non-anthropologists and academics at large. Literary critics act as translators in the same manner, “translating” for those who read their critiques. Clifford’s translations have brought about a rethinking and a fundamental reexamination of how we do anthropology. The Translation and Anthropology Conference brought together individuals from different disciplines. Besides anthropology, art history, translation studies, Native American literature, religion and French were represented. Being from different disciplines meant that the participants brought their different disciplinary dispositions and presuppositions, making us recognize a very basic aspect of translation since the participants sometimes had to do some “translation” across disciplinary lines during the course of the discussions.

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Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman

Boas, Franz. Ethnology of the Kwakiutl. Thirty-fifth Annual Report of the Bureau Of American Ethnology for the Years 1913–1914. Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution, 1921. Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997. Cronin, M. Translating Ireland: Translation, Languages and Cultures. Cork: Cork University Press, 1996. Ellen, R. F. Ethnographic Research: A Guide to General Conduct. New York: Academic Press, 1984, Malinowski, Bronislaw. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1961 [1922]. Niranjana, Tejaswini. Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism and the Colonial Contest. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator’s Invisibibility: A History of Translation. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. —— The Scandals of Translation: Towards and Ethics of Difference. London and New York: Routledge, 1998. Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). The Translation Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. Werner, Oswald and Donald T. Campbell. “Translating, Working Through Interpreters, and the Problem of Decentering.” in A Handbook of Method in Cultural Anthropology. Naroll, Raoul and Ronald Cohen (eds). New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

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Part I General Problems of Translation

Aram A. Yengoyan

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not only do linguistic translations bring forth the language of the investigator. family. anthropological theory regarding translation has been caught up in various conceptual developments. with the persistent question of how cultural translations can be made without destroying the very subjects which we are attempting to convey. The distinction between cultural and linguistic translation is blurred. Under Boas and his students. I The first part of this chapter attempts to demarcate some of the intellectual concerns which stimulated various types of translation but also may have neglected other potential expressions of translation.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation –1– Lyotard and Wittgenstein and the Question of Translation Aram A. cultural translations are less exacting and also less scientific.) have been used as glosses. Usually cultural translations have been done through a frame which either stresses differences or serves as a means in which the “other” is portrayed in categories which are understandable to a Western audience. Aside from some similarities. in our attempts toward comparison and what that meant. be it in its scientific version or humanistic side. Although traditional anthropological categories (such as kinship. as well as in our efforts to generalize or forge a systematic study of human societies as Radcliffe-Brown demanded. Yengoyan Translations and the tensions in translation have always plagued anthropology. but also linguistics – as a discipline which covers phonological. American historical anthropology stressed particularism which was closely connected to theories of relativism. and grammatical categories and distinctions – is usually more exacting in terms of rigor. cultural translations and linguistic translations differ in a number of ways. a more dominating framework on how translations are done can be imposed by linguistic methods and means of inquiry which are absent in more vague cultural translation attempts. Furthermore. From Boas onward. The Americanists insisted that comparison and generalization were – 25 – . lineage. etc. cultural translation (even linguistic translation) has seldom been directly addressed as an issue. what linguists mean by semantics is hardly comparable to anthropological usage. On this matter. but in general. morphological. Yet.

For example. Lowie in Primitive Society (1920). From my reading of this ethnography. However. whose only theoretical position was historical. Radin’s (1923) ethnography of the Winnebago goes further in denying all categories and generalizations. They also stressed that the laws. Kroeber (1952: 175–81) also differed in part from the Boasian antinominalist position. basically arguing against categories of analysis. moved in many different directions regarding these matters. however. If Radin is simply the passive scribe of the tribe. Thus. enumerating cultural things the way people gave them to him. As early as 1909 Kroeber proposed categories of kinship analysis which later became analytic categories for componential analysis in the 1960s and 1970s. kinship and social organization. Yengoyan the ultimate goals which could only be achieved after the particular and the local were analyzed and understood. particularism and relativism might have been an embarrassment to Boas and some of the Boasians. I would conclude that Radin’s account is the best and only example we have of a postmodern treatise which has eluded any contemporary notice of postmodern description. Kroeber and Benedict in their insistence that generalizations. translated Winnebago ethnography by simply giving the “facts” to the reader in the way the Winnebago gave the “facts” to him. Lowie leaves the reader with the impression that kinship or polity in various societies embrace a series of institutions and behaviors which are highly variable. politics. Boas. Kroeber’s position on particularism and relativism is somewhat more obtuse.Aram A. Radin’s heavy intellectual and moral commitment to localism. In his historical writings on Western civilization as expressed in The Configurations of Cultural Growth (1944) and other works and essays from the 1930s on. but the ideas did resonate well with Lowie and with some of Sapir’s non-linguistic writings. Radin’s Method and Theory in Ethnology (1933) is not only an attack on British anthropology but a devastating critique of Boas. The reason they are called ‘kinship’ is simply the result of our definition of kinship as a category but. all accepted an anti-nominalistic position. comparisons and generalizations of the evolutionists and the founders of British social anthropology (Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown) were only “law-like” because of the way phenomena were defined apart from an empirical existence. Radin (1923. Written in the early 1930s. Kroeber – 26 – . 1933) and even Kroeber in his own way. and cultural portraits (via Benedict) must be one of anthropology’s aims. in fact. In particular. the empirical content therein is so diverse as to make the label meaningless. even one with minimal priority. Lowie’s Primitive Society (1920) reads from one chapter to another like an attack on the creation and use of categories such as economy. The Boasians. with limited or no connection to anything else. even weak comparisons. Kroeber insisted that kinship terms were primarily linguistic rather than sociological. Radin. then one is left to read 500 pages of text with virtually no conclusions.

has a critical and marked impact on our concerns for translation. and they were heavily criticized by Radin throughout his writings. In support of this position. we might extend our inquiries to how problems of translation have been comprehended by Wittgenstein and Lyotard. if any. he also makes it clear that some customs/practices should only be described and that is the best we can do. For Malinowski. In this sense obeying a rule can only be done by one individual and only once. he further warns that analysis may cause the phenomena to dissolve into something else with no reality. Kroeber. II The emphasis on the particular and the enhancing and deepening of the idea of difference. While such is an issue (if not a problem) in anthropology. There have been few. Furthermore. In Anthropology (1948). since it violates the very subject it treats. Radcliffe-Brown stressed that societal differences could be related to a finite number of social structural types and/or subtypes. Kroeber discusses “odd customs. Although their approaches differ somewhat.” such as the couvade.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation moves toward a form of generalization. comparison and interpretation which culminates in Anthropology (1948). and reviews theories which may explain the practice. which has been part of our intellectual genealogy. Kroeber argues that these explanations are trite and even worthless. But Kroeber has another side in which the argument regarding generalization and facile theory is accepted with marked caution and even contempt. early British anthropology took the reverse position. there were only surface differences in culture which were directed toward the universality of our biological constitution as well as what human nature meant. both writers have started their inquiries with marked particularism and relativism. textbooks noted that what anthropology conveyed was the range of socio-cultural differences and similarities expressed within the arc of human variation. however. His critique is a heavy attack on Malinowski’s hypotheses which explain couvade and other “exotic” behaviors. Kroeber stresses that we should always be concerned with the potential violation of the nature of the object which may succumb to vapid and banal explanations. can only capture one facet of how the game of language is played.” which has been one of the markers of grammatical analysis. was simply warning that the “heavy greasy hand” of the anthropologist in regard to explanation and interpretation must always be scrutinized. Wittgenstein makes it clear that “obeying a rule. In Philosophical Investigations (1958). since the context in which rules are played changes and those changes have an impact on what the rule is and – 27 – . past or contemporary writers who would argue such a position – only in the heyday of theoretical triteness. Most of these developments were attacked by Boas in the 1930s. While the Americans stressed differences over similarities.

the issue of difference and specificity is only one facet of particularism. Although Wittgenstein has a relatively negative view of the privatization of language. From Wittgenstein to the recent work by Becker. But grammar per se does not and will not capture the essence of language games.” The technique is far beyond the rules per se and would embrace the whole context of language. which establishes how the performance of rules occur. in more recent contemporary thinking. and one is merely tracing round the frame through which we look at it.” Following from Wittgenstein’s approach. para. As an avid chess player. but it is fairly clear that when Wittgenstein enunciates the word “pain. 199) states “To understand a sentence means to understand a language. which for Wittgenstein means uses and institutions. Do the rules of chess exclude such behaviors or customs? From this postulate Wittgenstein (1958: para. Some writers have wrongly concluded that many aspects of Wittgenstein’s thoughts on language are a form of behaviorism. Rules are caught up in customs. The implications of these contrasts sharpen Wittgenstein’s conception of language and language games. As long as difference(s) become the bottom line. 114) states “One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing’s nature over and over again.” and although “pain” is expressive of behavioral parameters. Becker (1995: 288) concludes that the specificity of language is primarily orientational (as opposed to denotational). “pain” is still first and foremost a mental term which is not reducible.Aram A.” This type of specificity would never be limited to a rule which is privately conceived. Wittgenstein knows the rules of chess but also notes that the stamping of feet or yelling during the match might be part of the context of the game. As Wittgenstein (1958. and the context. but of more importance to me is that the idea of difference becomes the barometer of accepting statements which we can call truth. To understand a language means to be master of a technique. Language as image creates the varying propositions which we use and state and express to ourselves throughout our language experiences. or what Becker (1995) has called “languaging. language is a form of life or a frame which embeds all of what we consider as grammar. Yengoyan how it is expressed. Throughout his discussion of language and any possibility of translation. since the private aspect of language would have to collapse and combine the act of thinking about a rule as isomorphic to obeying a rule. as the contrast between the factual and the counterfactual. Wittgenstein’s position is nearly always linked to the contrast between the argument and the counterargument or. – 28 – . his major challenge to the issue is how language is evoked by memory and memory-reaction. it must be understood as the essence of language. Thus language is an organizer of experience as well as the framing of contexts which bear on the speaker and also evoke memories which speakers bring forth to explain experience. For Wittgenstein. Both sets of contrasts I consider as parallel. it becomes virtually impossible to invoke any form of translation. which one might never fully contemplate or even arrive at.

Lyotard develops the idea that the phrase is the most minimal unit of analysis which embeds and combines the context in which language occurs. a tradition which goes from Benedict to Geertz in cultural anthropology. and. shapes and attunes speakers to context and in turn defines how context bears on speakers. On this basis.” In this vein. Although Lyotard is concerned about the political aspects of differend. frames involve a range of contexts which include the physical world. and how silence is constituted. that being the phrase. In a series of examples. these problems are not only difficult but virtually insurmountable. and what Becker calls languaging. the parts to the whole. can any form of translation be adequately accomplished? The conclusion from my reading is that it cannot be done. even if we know what that is. prior texts and frames which embed and create action. Contexts are radically and differently shaped. what are we translating. In Becker’s analysis. Lyotard takes the phrase from Stendhal “Be a popular hero of virtù like Bonaparte” as an assignment of prescriptive value to the name/label Bonaparte. translation is the writing of cultural portraits or language portraits as texts. Any translation from one language to another assumes that the phrase of the departing language is – 29 – . Lyotard’s The Differend: Phrases in Dispute (1988) represents an even more acute and radical move in the direction of particularism and difference. or both sides of the phrase regimen are dissolved into something else. Yet in dealing with distantly related languages. Becker’s (1995) appeal for a return to philology. In both Wittgenstein and Becker. The overall idea is that the differend cannot or should not be collapsed into another in which one phrase regimen is dissolved into the other. the problem remains: namely. Lyotard’s concern is to move toward the most minimal “thing” which creates and maintains difference. for the anthropologist. is premised on the approach that the primary task of the modern version of philology is describing and interpreting these different frames. and they also require both memory retrieval and new memories combined with possibly radical prior texts which an outsider might be unable to master or even approximate. But the political agenda has far-reaching effects in regards to language and any possibility of translation. social factors.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation consequently language. an ethics and a strategy. must be comprehended as portraits and readings which are basically non-comparable. either as cultural behavior or as speech. prior texts. Lyotard (1988: 48) emphatically argues that phrases are governed by different regimens which cannot be translated into each other. I suspect that. his conviction is that only a sense of difference and heterodoxy can minimize political domination based on global theory and homogeneity which sweeps away and obliterates all voices based on the local and the particular. what he labels Modern Philology. Each of these portraits. This name is an Ideal of practical or political reason in the Kantian sense. Lyotard (1988: 48) states: “A phrase which attaches a life-ideal to a man’s name and which turns that name into a watchword is a potentiality of instructions.

One’s thought is translatable as much as the speaker’s. but each language through its history must work from different regimens which are temporally specific. or we can impose our thought – 30 – . In Postmodern Fables (1997). translations from one language to another are one type of translation. who does not address the problems of parsing and glossing. Lyotard casts translation as partly a cultural matter. At best we can only get glimpses of the past and the distant as bits of this and that: either the bits impose on our thought.” Furthermore. Lyotard would probably support this position. yet we can never get into how one/the speaker inhabits the language or the culture. Lyotard is more open to the possibility of translation. Lyotard recognizes the possibility and also correctly argues that translation is not only an infinite task with no closure. Translations assume that the regimen and its corresponding genre are analogous to another language or one set of regimen/genre in language “A” has a counterpart in language “B. but also in what Lyotard calls pertinences which are “transversal. just as Stendhal used the Bonaparte imagery.Aram A. still concludes “How then can phrases belonging to different regimes and/or genres (whether within the same language or between two languages) be translated from one into the other?” (Lyotard 1988: 49). Even if translation is attempted in language (a position which was unacceptable in The Differend). The process of glossing from one language to another is seldom if ever a neutral act. since the phrase regimen is highly specific within each language and not only is that phrase regimen a qualitative variable between languages. Again we return to the problem which Wittgenstein noted and which Becker calls languaging. but his critique is that translation in any form is virtually impossible.” Here Lyotard sees translation as a triangulation in which both languages resonate with one another through a third meta-structure which produces or generates similar analogies with each other. Yengoyan recoverable in the phrase of the receiving language. other forms are not directly translated from language A to B and back. As Becker (1995) emphatically notes. the claims of universality through translation is a political expression in which the language of the powerful becomes the measure or barometer in which universality is forged. This is what linguists have done with the procedures of parsing and glossing which have been accepted as a normal methodology. it must also approximate the “manners” of thought. due to the fact that languages by definition are translatable (Lyotard. 1997: 153). the baggage of culture from near texts to distant texts in time and space cannot be surmounted. but the barriers are still as marked as in his 1988 position. thus one is never at home in another’s home. but that every translation begets another one. In reading his essay “Directions to Servants” (based on Jonathan Swift’s essay on how one talks to servants). Any adequate translation for Lyotard is not only a matter of respecting thought. In this sense languages can only be described within their own historical contexts. Lyotard. But the final problem still exists in that we might extrapolate one’s language or even phrase regimens.

Lyotard is also keenly aware of the impact of noise (and possibly silence though not directly addressed) on thought. “Every utterance is exuberant” – it conveys more than it plans and includes not a few things we would wish left silent.” One says. 1959). translation between languages is still somewhat more feasible in comparison to translation between phrase regimes which cannot be translated. The other law. – 31 – . situational analysis. Many writers view Lyotard as the most dominant voice in postmodernism. and a phenomenological commitment in which figure reigns over discourse. since there is no resolution in translation. the problems of any “adequate and approximate” translation might be insurmountable. one where difference is paramount and the contradictions can only be noted but not resolved. but my reading is that his postmodernism is an intellectual and political appeal for the situational and the particular. Translation is thus a form of house-cleaning which might be tidy. Furthermore. one can only listen to noise which generates thought. “Every utterance is deficient” – it says less than it wishes to say. III Apart from the cautionary strictures regarding translation as set forth by Wittgenstein. In his attack on grand theory. Thought for Lyotard is linked to the noise of language either through discourse or through writing. but each life style of speech is filled with silences which might escape any translation. situational and particular events/data would include observations which we think might be incomparable.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation on the bits. Though I would argue against this position. once again by glossing the particular and possibly unique into our thought with all of the political facets of domination which our thought might embrace. declares. we could conclude that in Lyotard’s philosophy of language (like Wittgenstein’s) the grammatical mode of the sentence is primary. the opposite. Becker (1995) readily notes that grammar is limiting in what we can or cannot say. but the real beauty of housecleaning as translation is to keep disorder and partial chaos as part of the process. Returning to language. Translation is a combination and exchange of representation and self-effacement. The exuberances and deficiencies either say more than we know or less than what we intend. Lyotard also moves the discussion from discourse to contextualization. it returns to Wittgenstein’s caution regarding private language games. The model logic of each sentence (or phrase) is primarily comprehended by the different logics which impinge on the sentence. but the sentence cannot rest on grammar per se. One cannot address one’s thought. Yet. For anthropologists. which is another form of discourse. Citing Ortega y Gasset (1957. Lyotard and Becker. where figure presupposes reference and is configured in difference. “Two apparently contradictory laws are involved in all uttering.

attempts a looser translation which might lose some of the subtleness of information but the meaning will be conveyed.” The job of the translator can be defined roughly as taking the message or idea that someone has expressed in language A and rendering the message in language B in a way that speakers of B will understand readily. but this might reflect that the speakers of the two languages do not share conceptual categories in common and their ways of talking about the world might not resonate with one another. but the difficult strictures which make glossing an impossibility are minimized. Most grammars deal with rules. but they do not tell us how to say things. Pawley. In a literal rendering which maintains the conceptual scheme of the original language. Boas faced this issue in working on Kwakiutl texts and English.Aram A. Working with Kalam. in the process of parsing and glossing. in comparing the language of the translator to the language of the distant speaker. grammars of the type we have read are seldom done in an idiomatic mode which is useful for the speakers of the language as well as for the translator. however. However. since what is of more interest is to demarcate what is deficient and exuberant in the home language of the translator and also to note what the near or distant text. Even though hunting in Kalam is not the same as hunting in English. we might recast the problem in another way. and the same problem occurs in moving from German to Aranda. a language in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea. and thus the speakers live in partially different conceptual schemes (Pawley 1991: 442). does one find certain features which fall into one or the other category? Translation is not neutral. If we return to our common thinking about traditional grammars. translation involves explicating their conceptual scheme even if it does not completely “resonate” with ours. often speakers of the receiving language might be unable to comprehend the categories. In this sense. Both conditions (deficiencies and exuberances) rest in the language of the translator. hunting in Kalam can be grasped. glossing between distant languages is and has always been a problem. the matter of glossing is still an issue. Pawley (1991: 434) stresses the point that “Translation is something that language users do with particular ideas expressed by particular texts. Pawley correctly notes that the problem in translation is to find adequate equivalents between English and Kalam. but we can also learn something about the procedural basis of translation. be it spoken or written. Glossing of this type would be easier (and probably safer) between languages which are related. which will be – 32 – . and they would also exist in the metalanguage of the translation process. Again. In his appeal for pragmatic translation. does with deficient and exuberant markers. Yengoyan All translations face this problem. but one could speculate that certain aspects of language and languaging might have a cross-cultural basis from which one aspect of languaging across languages falls more in one direction as opposed to its counterpart. Even a “simple” label like hunting might have no good equivalent in both languages. As Pawley (1991) notes. following Bulmer. This is not the only issue. nevertheless.

They come into play when consciousness is expanded and – 33 – . The quest for universals requires an analytic distinction between innate and experiential universals. its capacity to operate in situations not specifically given in a particular culture context. and what each culture emphasizes. Culture is composed of those categories. When Freud or Turner (1967: 88) state that red symbolizes blood they are claiming that this is a universal inductive generalization from a universal human experience. Universal forms of thought occur not only in terms of categories of thought. but also in its overall potential for abstraction. conceptualize and categorize in terms of various combinations of thought which are not determined by the content of thought. and culture as consciousness. What sets off one culture from another. Such universals are roughly equivalent to Chomskian universals or categories of thought/structural categories in the Lévi-Straussian sense. Where I would differ from the latter contrast is that actualized categories need not be completely at the level of the unconscious.). but more important they are ‘inductive’ and ‘empirical’. the universal refers to the ability and potential of the mind to abstract. It should be noted that the contrast between actualized categories and unconscious categories has some connections with the Boasian and Lévi-Straussian distinction between surface structures and underlying structures. it might be easier to devise some semi-conventional modes of thinking and articulation between both languages and their speakers. not only in the mind’s dealings with reality in any specific situation. The former refers to the mental ability to categorize and abstract. round. From this range of possible forms. is a set of realized categories or structures. Innate universals are probably genetically programmed and they may include certain specific categories such as features of shape (flat. Culture consciousness designates that part of the total mental capacity which is actualized or realized by or ‘in’ a particular culture. I propose a basic distinction between culture as a potential set of categories of thought. etc. long. IV In order to devise a method for cultural translation. Most important is the assumption that this universal set of thought is a mental process characteristic of and shared equally by all human cultures. Lévi-Strauss 1963). If a subject matter which vaguely resonates with speakers of two different languages can be created. which provide lifestyles and meaning to a particular society.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation elaborated on in more detail in the discussion. Experiential universals are those of experience. but also as intersecting structures of categories. In either case. actual and conscious. either consciously or unconsciously. each particular society takes a segment as ‘its’ culture (cf.

Aram A. Yengoyan when different (and possibly new) categories and groupings emerge to explain the growth of consciousness. the creativity of the mind is precisely in those areas of thought and ideas which are not readily transmittable through verbal discourse. From actualized categories only a portion ever fall into the realm of consciousness to the participants. In reality each individual is aware of his cultural context. thus what is needed is the determination of how consciousness can be evoked for other areas of thought which are both/either subconscious and/or unconscious. since the universal as a concept might not appear in every case or its appearance may be modified. This type of activity violates the nature of the phenomena and it also displaces our inquiry further from the realm of their knowledge. Although some aspects of a culture are unconscious to its members. at times. This point is critical since I am assuming that more ideas and thought exist than words or linguistic forms to express these ideas. Imposition of etic consciousness on the consciousness of the people results in – 34 – . but it also compounds the problem when the anthropologist imposes his consciousness or his models on the culture. Normally anthropologists assume that what people are conscious of is isomorphic with the totality of potential knowledge. Thus the existence of metaphor and rhetoric and their differential utilization in various cultures brings forth the unique human ability to create and transmit ideas through the manipulation of language. In fact. The expression of rules pertaining to marriage. Not only does the anthropological inquiry collapse consciousness of actual and potential categories into a single level of analysis. We should not assume that history and change have destroyed the existence of the universal. much of culture is conscious and is manifest through behavior and verbalized rules and patterns to explain what the behavior means and why it exists. and it is at this level where history manipulates and. but this does not mean that such mental processes are absent. Universal sets of categorization and structures of thought are contrasted to particular manifestations which occurs as “a culture. myth and cosmology are conscious to individual participants. and in many cases the overt expression of cultural forms cannot be related to antecedent conditions. The assumption is basically similar to what the philosopher Michael Polanyi (1966) designates as tacit knowledge. Categories. Diachronic processes gradually modify and channel what is universal. and history is the critical link between the universal and ‘a’ culture. Structures change over time. abstractions and conceptualizations as well as certain processes which are not verbalized or cannot be linguistically labeled will be unconscious. ritualized behavior. The distinction between implicit categories of culture and the conscious categories of a culture is also distorted by anthropological inquiry. Culture rests in both actual and conscious categories.” The two are quite different due to a number of distortions which occur through the process of history and change. mutilates structure.

and furthermore recognizes a portion of the total potential. Humans are grouped according to social rank or according to kinship but not both. but only as a secondary differentiation among members of a specific generation. since previous accounts note their existence. In the analysis of numeral classifiers. conceptualization and categorization is greater than language as well as being prior to the evolution of language. age grades. the mind’s ability to classify in many ways. Underlying this particular linguistic function is the sense of sight while the sense of smell is ignored. There are few metaphors based on sound. Thus in East Africa one expects to find lineages. However. only some of which is “logical” as Western science and humanities know it. occupation is secondary while sex is tertiary. In most languages. most parameters of classification are based on animateness. taste or smell. age is the primary distinction. most of which are not linguistic. Gender often occurs in status-based systems but again only as a secondary or tertiary categorization. and segmentary societies. In the analysis of culture. Thus we can never assume that what people say or do represents the totality of what they know. What appears of interest in numeral classifications is the almost total dependence on the visual feature of form. a woman is classified by the occupation she holds and not by gender. is vast and in all probability infinite. the mind may classify by gender alone and the fact that certain Malayo-Polynesian languages do not verbalize it should not be accepted as an indicator that the mental ability to categorize by gender is absent. The mind can devise and create all sorts of categories and relationships: it can abstract in infinite ways. thus consciousness only deals with a fragment of cultural systems. In the distinction between human/non-human there is more than one class for humans. The second critical issue relates to the problem of methodology. yet language expresses a small segment of this vast assortment of thought. It is imperative that for analytical and theoretical purposes we must not fail to distinguish between each form of consciousness. feel. But more important is the ability of the mind to be more inclusive for thought while only a fragment of its potential emerges on the behavioral and linguistic level of discourse. Thus returning to my original assumption. humans are not categorized on the basis of gender alone. fieldworkers are primarily concerned with the relationship of their conceptual models to those known and accepted for the groups one is studying. An illustration of this variation is found in a work on numeral classification systems among certain languages in south-east Asia and other Austronesian languages (Adams and Conklin 1973). In some languages such as Vietnamese.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation conclusions and theory which are doubly removed from what culture encompasses or from the total potential which the mind is capable of comprehending. shape and function. thus. The criterion of gender appears in all of the kinship-based classifier systems. Regardless of the yield which eyes or smell present. the ability of the mind for abstraction. while in insular Southeast – 35 – .

The linguist starts from order in grammar and gradually re-alters order and meaning in different ways with the objective of determining if different utterances still maintain meaning to consultants. At this point it could be said that the consultant’s acceptance of expressive possibility has reached its limit. and that the extent to which one’s conscious abilities permit comprehension of other cultural forms can be determined. it is simply wrong and he or she does not recognize what is transmitted. By starting from cultural categories and conscious codes.Aram A. Traditional anthropological translations have simply not recognized the problem of how consciousness may be evoked. but once we accept this we are in a dilemma of dealing with cultural differences on the one hand and structural similarities on the other hand. we can determine how informants recognize patterns or rules. but such inquiry does not evoke consciousness among cultural participants. This form of standard anthropological investigation is adequate. Traditional social inquiry has focused on the opposite direction. and not solely within the – 36 – . Yengoyan Asia cognatic societies are prevalent and from this knowledge the fieldworker can generate specific ethnographic models which fit a broader picture. and by conscious manipulation of rules we might detect how informants relate to variations and modifications without complete loss of meaning. that how these processes are connected to other activities can be observed. but it does this at the expense of real insight into the structures underlying emic interpretations and behavior. In cultural translation. however. What commonly results is that a person can relate to this variation and manipulation of order in that it transmits meaning though the particular utterance is far from ‘correct’. anthropologists should redirect research to an understanding of how consciousness on the implicit cultural level may be evoked. It is in the realm of evoking consciousness that mental processes can be detected. Seeking jural rules provides one mode of access to ethnographic order. Rules are regarded as paramount. the structures that result from these inquiries are the result of our own anthropological etic. Of more importance and interest is to take rules as the starting point and determine how far rules and order can be manipulated in different ways and varying directions. and it may add more “credence” to the existing knowledge of a particular cultural area or cultural type. and the meaning for consciousness of a particular form is absent. Fieldwork in a particular culture usually reifies one’s conceptual scheme. Such attempts in cultural translation would focus on how qualitatively different cultural forms are translatable into other cultural systems which on the overt level possess no common similarities. yet maintain meaning to cultural participants. Translation of culture through the evoking of consciousness in consultants minimizes the influence of these etic interpretations. The tolerance for understanding speech is truly vast. However. since the final product of the translation is a mental exercise in the minds of cultural participants. a point is eventually reached when a consultant states that an utterance is nonsense.

Initially. in some cases it is absent while in other cultures certain universal features are distorted or are embedded in other forms. is critical in developing the relationship between the universal and the particular. thus masking their appearance. Strehlow translated various parts of the Bible into Aranda. Linguists are aware of embeddedness and its implications in understanding universals. as opposed to assuming that the universal exists as a concept and attempting to realize how the process of embeddedness operates in masking and altering appearances.” It is illusory to argue that gaps in particular cultural systems are a denial of the universal. However. if a cultural form is not apparent. the whole idea of counting was mastered with virtually no problem. 1979). the first or earliest translations might be closer to “neutrality” as opposed to succeeding translations of the same language. In attempting to capture the nuances of how time and sacredness co-vary. but that among the Walbiri it does not exist as part of the cultural context. however. The problem of embeddedness of one form or concept in another is critical and widespread. The distinction between different spheres of knowledge. a language which has a highly complex set of tenses (and/or aspect) which are used in remarkable ways in regard to the matters of sacredness as opposed to mundane activities. it is nonexistent. The kinds of gaps which exist in particular languages or grammars may also provide parallel gaps in “Cultures. anthropologists have assumed the position that. with the introduction of money along with the English counting system. During this period. Carl Strehlow who lived among the Aranda of Central Australia from about 1894 to 1922. it also appears that in some cases. A case in support of this is found in the work of the German Lutheran missionary. the consultant participates actively in producing the cultural translation. Discussion As previously noted. the particular conscious manifestation takes numerous forms. as well as how matters of time link the most ancient past to the near past to the recent past and to the present. the distinction has been discussed by Kenneth Hale (1975) who brilliantly demonstrates that counting is a universal. In tracing the processes regarding neutrality in translation.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation terms of the anthropological etic (Yengoyan 1978. Strehlow realized that the use of the past tense in German distorted how Aranda myths based in the most distant past were propelled into the present (and possibly the most – 37 – . The universal is a concept and the particular manifestation of the universal might be absent in certain cases of cultural analysis. and anthropologists and linguists must devise means for analyzing how this process operates. In the case of potential categories as a universal set of concepts or forms. This involves the issue of embeddedness in which the presence of a feature is subsumed under another category or set of features. the art and act of translation is never neutral. In this scenario. either as conscious categories or as the potential of thought.

there is always loss in translation. understanding that Aranda was to be the standard from which other translations flowed. This small case is instructive on a number of grounds. although even in such a case one might not find this possible. Asad (1993: 189) warns us that a critique must be based on a good translation. In the analysis of Burmese. is still considered one of the best grammars on Burmese.” Languages of some equality. the current global cultural wars between Anglophone and Francophone worlds of influence and domination is approaching a state of semi-inequality. meaning some semblance of economic and political uniformity and dominance – such as English and French in which translation and critique evolve as a dialectic expression – have the virtue of rendering access and creativity in each language as a positive critique of itself and the other. 1992). Thus. translations of these biblical texts have been done in English in which the translators have gradually moved away from the imperfective to the past tense. Again. could capture the nuances of how biblical texts could be translated into Aranda and how Aranda texts on myth could be brought into German. who possessed a fine knowledge of Aranda without having the baggage of an intellectual discipline on his shoulders.Aram A. Yet. Strehlow. Yet. the problem is compounded by what Asad (1993: 189) calls “unequal languages. – 38 – . it appears that early translations by individuals who were not professional linguists probably were a closer approximation of these languages and also how a translation could be done without a gross violation of the language under observation. if neutrality is a vague ideal which might be approximated. even translations from Spanish to French and from French to Spanish are chaotic in terms of what is lost let alone misunderstood. Again. The Strehlow case is hardly unique. But the imperfective is relatively “awkward. which is the nearest equivalent in German (and English) to what is found in Aranda. the grammar and dictionary by Adoniram Judson. this movement through time without finalization is done through the use of the imperfective. First. but in the limitations of German. written in the early 1850s. assuming that a good translation is in part based on two languages which are more or less equal according to the strictures of power. Second. Since his work.” especially in English. returning to Ortega y Gasset (1937. one finds Burmese flowing in and through his analysis which in turn is almost vacuous of what the science of language had to offer at that time. but surely the loss in his case is far less than what happens when the subject matter of disciplines becomes oversystemized and -formalized. I am arguing that the study of languages became more and more “scientific” as linguistics emerged as an empirical and theoretical endeavour so that the study of language was undertaken in order to verify or dispute certain facets of theoretical linguistics. even among “equal” languages such as English and French. reprinted in Schulte et al. which is problematic and in most cases has hardly any reflex in Aranda. Again. correctly realized that the problem was not in Aranda. In Aranda. Strehlow. Yengoyan distant future).

If anthropologists like Asad and myself and linguists like Becker lament how the language and power of the colonizer have formed relations of inequality which are irreversible. . it is also connected to the intellectual hegemony of Western academia as it spread globally. yielding a situation in which the language of the colonized is framed and re-framed into the language of the colonizer. Perspectives The essential challenge for anthropology lies in the process of translation – both linguistic and cultural translation. how language differs from language almost the way dialect differs from dialect. to what extent any language can be transformed. and tone converge. it goes without saying that current concerns about language extinction and cultural genocide are the parts of a process which started and unfolded in the nineteenth century. . Greek. The contemporary far-reaching effects of globalization and the transnational movements of a global culture have a lineal connection to what Benjamin might have predicted. It is not generally realized to what extent this is possible. English. Our translators have a far greater reverence for the usage of their own language than for the spirit of the foreign works. Works by Wittgenstein and Lyotard address the – 39 – . Asad (1993) explores the various facets in which the translation process becomes a forcible transformation. English into German instead of turning German into Hindi. but also characterized by a marked and radical differentiation in inequality. image. Professionalization combined with desires to create uniformity in method and theory throughout the social sciences always work against the idea of difference. proceed from a wrong premise. namely the power relationships of the dominant socio-political context is such that the languages of the third. This expression of inequality was noted by Walter Benjamin (1969 [1923]) in his reference to and citation of Pannwitz: Our translations.or fourth-world speakers receive no voice. They want to turn Hindi. The problem of power differences is the basis of linguistic imperialism as expressed in our attempts at translation. this last is true only if one takes language seriously enough. Greek. however. not if one takes it lightly. He must expand and deepen his language by means of the foreign language. even the best ones. Particularly when translating from a language very remote from his own he must go back to the primal elements of language itself and penetrate to the point where work.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation The impact of loss in translation is even greater in languages which are not only distant. The basic error of the translator is that he preserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. . In part this process was not only a matter of world imperialism.

really only the frame through which we see the thing is traced in expression. – 40 – . language. Contexts and events change. These differences in philosophical approaches again bring us back to two fundamental points of departure. language creates the varying propositions which we use in daily expressions. One is the ongoing critical discussion in Marxist aesthetics between form and content. For Heidegger (Being and Time. and those which start on the outside and move to the inside. Does this mean that the frame and framing is the only venture which we can accomplish? Is there any possibility of entering into the whole from one frame. there might be no “right way” but the task is still before us. the problem is aptly summarized by his concern that “What is decisive is not to get out of the circle but to come into it the right way. The roots of this position return us to the Ancient Greeks captured in Heraclitus’ insight that one can never step in the same river again. both Wittgenstein and more so Lyotard keenly understood the dangers of uniformity in its various expressions.Aram A. they direct our focus on how forms as frames are delimited and perpetually changing. For Wittgenstein. echo the ongoing debate between form and content. which results from the nuanced interrelations between form and content in any given context.” For anthropologists and less so for linguists. can we say about the river? Entering the frame must always be a task of translation. invoking the phrase regime as the ultimate level where difference exists. especially in dealing with distant texts and languages. a task undertaken with the utmost caution. both of whom are fully aware of how content is as critical as form. By stressing the importance of difference as an intellectual concern and as a political agenda. At most. If Heidegger saw the problem as one of moving from the external to the internal. from one picture which only yields one image or one portrait? We can never enter the same river twice but what. Yengoyan implications and complexities involved in this process. Wittgenstein invokes the sentence as the final expression where difference lies whereas Lyotard moves even closer toward difference and particularism. be it translation. and the possible manifestation of chaos. and while one imagines that the nature of something has been stated. or even a class-driven social system. frames are altered and at most we again return to Wittgenstein’s previously cited warning that we are perpetually tracing the frame. we can describe frames and form. but this also brings forth the issues of content and dialectics. Difference as the start and the end of the translation endeavour is always there. 1962). Wittgenstein and Becker. To cast the issue in another way with more implications for anthropology is to raise again the age-old problem of accounts/descriptions which move from the inside to the outside. Although these developments are hardly Marxist. if anything. Introducing the contrast between form and content to the problem of translation might allow us to clarify in what directions previous attempts in translation theory have moved and to what extent we can go beyond them.

and seventeenth-century concepts that language was essentially a ternary linkage. the idea of mimesis in language is out of step with current linguistic science. but an inward direction to the idea of what words mean. or some segments of anthropology. create and manifest. the Benjamin position goes back to the sixteenth. argue that to know and convey a culture is to know its geist. the words in a language were simply not signifiers. Translation is an impossibility. Most of our translations can be characterized as developments in form over content and possibly the dominance of the outside over the inside. But if anthropology. which is the classic Saussurean assumption. Our language and meta-language regarding translation differs from other intellectual traditions. It is only the “inside” and the “content” which is the final jury on closure. then that can only be understood and interpreted as a matter of content which provides the uniqueness which local cultures and languages express. and the actors of a culture. might be full of misery and fraught with problems which are almost insurmountable. the novelist and literary critic J. since it imposed an external constraint on the very phenomena which he was attempting to interpret from the inside. stimulating negative responses from Adorno and Brecht. The challenge for translation is that it must convey simultaneously both difference and similarity of meaning. but we must realize that translations are performed so that difference is always presented as part of our quest for understanding the variability in the human condition. but that they also reflect a directiveness which resonates with the Idea which is Benjamin’s critical concern for language as a form of mimesis. And the jury is the speakers of a language. Coetzee (2001) clarifies this matter in Benjamin’s writing by stressing that words are not simply binary transactions. and our attempts are only approximations which only the speakers of a language can critique. Anthropology as a cultural translation might appear peripheral to these genealogies of intellectual history. In a recent piece. but the problems encountered by Benjamin remain our problems. – 41 – . Apart from the inside/outside contrast. But Benjamin was always leery of theorizing. As Coetzee (2001: 30) notes. The parallel to the Arcades project is apparent in Benjamin’s approach to translation which was also committed to an internal approach linking words and meanings towards the Idea. a framework which questioned the assumption that form is primary to content.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation it was Benjamin’s attempts at translation which invoked the inside position. which is quite different from binary theories of language that culminate in the nineteenth century and eventually in the works of Saussure. But in the history of language. Thus translations. Coetzee (2001) clearly demonstrates that Benjamin’s atheoretical approach to the Arcades Project reveals the limitations of this perspective. For Benjamin. M. cultural or linguistic. the perpetual conflict between translation of form and translation of content and how these can be combined theoretically is a continual dilemma in either a Marxist or a non-Marxist approach.

Beyond Translation: Essays Toward a Modern Philology. Lyotard. and A. pp. their efforts saved me from some critical mistakes. Becker. pp. Talal. Hale and O. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. New York: Schocken. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1–10. C. Voegelin.). 1997. 93–112. Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press. J. Kinkade.. 1963. Kroeber. 1988. —— The Nature of Culture. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. “Gaps in Grammars and Cultures. 1920. Heidegger. L. L. “Toward a Theory of Natural Classification. Robert. 1944. Yengoyan Acknowledgments I wish to thank Victor Golla and Kendall House for their acute and perceptive reading of the first version of this chapter. K. —— Postmodern Fables. pp. January 11. Corum. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Lévi-Strauss. 2001. “The Marvels of Walter Benjamin. Claude. M. A.” New York Review of Books 48. D. 1948. 1995. 1973. 1962.Aram A. Martin. K.). F. 1937/1992. 1975. José. M. 1993. Brace and World. New York: Harcourt. A. Rainer and John Biguenet (eds. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. – 42 – . 1952. K. Schulte. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. New York: Harper. Weisler (eds.). Ortega y Gasset.. 1969[1923]. Lowie. 295–315. Jean-François. and N. —— Anthropology. Configurations of Culture Growth. T. L. Walter. “The Misery and Splendor of Translation. New York: Horace Liveright Publishing Corp. Hale. L. Conklin. L. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. F. pp. New York: Basic. Structural Anthropology. C. Werner (eds. Berkeley: University of California Press. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.” In Papers from the Ninth Regional Meeting: Chicago Linguistic Society. Asad.” In Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida.” In Linguistics and Anthropology: In Honor of C. Primitive Society. Being and Time. 28–33. References Adams. Benjamin. Illuminations. Smith-Stark. Coetzee.

Becker. 1933. Paul. Winter. 1957. No. The Winnebago Tribe. Philosophical Investigations. Andrew. R. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology. Pawley. Alton L. (ed. “Culture. and Aram A.). and Problems of Translation: The Kariera System in Cross-Cultural Perspective.” In Australian Aboriginal Concepts. Yengoyan. 3rd ed. 1958. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1966. W. Consciousness.” In The Imagination of Reality: Essays in Southeast Asian Coherence Systems. “Saying Things in Kalam: Reflections on Language and Translation. New York: Doubleday. – 43 – . Polanyi. Wittgenstein. A. pp.). A. New York: Basic. Radin. 1991. W. —— “The Difficulty of Reading. V.. —— The Method and Theory of Ethnology: An Essay in Criticism. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. 1978. 1979. L. 146–155. 1967. Hiatt. Pawley. New York: W.). Yengoyan (eds. 1959. Reissued 1965. Norton. Andrew (ed. Michael. pp. —— “Cultural Forms and a Theory of Constraints. Turner. 325–330. Smithsonian Institution. New York: Macmillan. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. New Jersey: Ablex. 28. Auckland: The Polynesian Society.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation —— Man and People. The Tacit Dimension.” Diogenes. Ludwig. 1923.” In Man and a Half: Essays in Pacific Anthropology and Ethnobiology in Honor of Ralph Bulmer.


is a much more difficult epistemological task than is commonly appreciated. I will also argue that. Venuti has even described this process as being like “terrorism. If translation is construed as figuring out what others believe when they utter or write certain words.1 Ascribing beliefs to someone. then fundamental difficulties in alien belief ascription will create many of the fundamental difficulties for translation that writers have frequently spoken about. Many scholars have written about how much is lost in the process of translating one language to another. In this chapter. I will argue that the root causes of the difficulties with translation have to do with problems intrinsic to intentional characterization. The basic idea is the quite – 45 – . I will attempt to systematically explain the fundamental reasons why translation is such a difficult endeavor. Anyone who’s ever tried to converse beyond asking for directions in a language other than one’s own is well aware of this. The latter parts of the chapter consist of a discussion of some suggestions for how translators and belief ascribers can get around these fundamental problems.” in its ability to “reconstitute and cheapen foreign texts” (1991). Translation and Belief Ascription In the academic world there are numerous theories of what translation is all about. I will argue. trying to restate those beliefs using the intentional terminology of the translator’s home language involves self-reference in a way that often inevitably distorts things. and is especially difficult in the sorts of situations that translators are in. The view that continues to be dominant in philosophy (and cognitive science) is one that views translation – interpreting the sentences of an alien speaker – as a species of the problem of ascribing beliefs to an agent. even if one were to successfully figure out what alien peoples believe at a particular time.–2– Translation and Belief Ascription: Fundamental Barriers Todd Jones Introduction Translation is hard.

Epistemological Barriers in Uncovering Beliefs Let me begin by saying why the task of uncovering beliefs is often an inherently difficult one. then the difficulties inherent in both figuring out what people believe and in saying what they believe are going to cause many of the fundamental difficulties in translation that so many commentators have noted.” – 46 – . For some time. someone using the environmental strategy will view the presence of an attacking dog as evidence that the person being attacked believes him.or herself to be under attack by a dog. and using knowledge of those conditions. Writes philosopher and cognitive scientist Stephen Stich: In light of the strong parallelism between the project of translating a speaker’s sincere assertions and the project of interpreting or intentionally characterizing his mental sentences [his beliefs] it should come as no surprise that the principles governing and constraining translation will be mirrored by principles governing and constraining intentional interpretation. One of the main ways is to try to infer what an unseen entity must be like by deriving information about it from our current theories of what the world is like under certain conditions. according to certain general regular patterns or laws. which might be termed “the behavioral strategy. Showing that a person was exposed to a certain natural or social environment is taken as evidence of his or her having the typical resulting belief. There are two general methods of gathering evidence and using theories to make this sort of inference. one needs to start by recognizing that the task of describing unobservable states of mind in others is just one instance of the very common and general problem of trying to uncover information about entities we can’t directly observe. the environmental strategy begins with the idea that certain beliefs result from exposure to certain perceptual/environmental situations. What I will argue is that if this is explicitly or implicitly the theory of translation that one is working with (and I believe it often is). (1990: 34) In what follows I will not argue the merits of this conceptualization of translation. there have been several methods for justifying claims about the unobservable. (I will discuss why the task of uncovering alien beliefs during translation is especially difficult in due course.” Here one starts by observing external conditions that are thought to cause certain unseen states of affairs to result.) In discussing belief ascription. One method might be termed “the environmental strategy.Todd Jones simple one that the task of understanding the assertions someone makes in an unknown tongue centers around figuring out what the speaker believes and wants others to believe when he or she makes those utterances. (So. In the case of belief ascription.) The other method.

Thus. So when those resulting behaviors are observed. causing such behaviors to occur. because we think that choosing vanilla over chocolate is caused by believing that vanilla is tastier. that’s taken to be good evidence that those purported hidden causes are in fact there. by selecting from an unlimited number of – 47 – . In the cases we are discussing.” It is a point of elementary logic. according to our theories. is true. observing certain resulting behaviors (including verbal utterances) is taken to be evidence that certain internal beliefs must be there. then observing that behavior provides no evidence for the existence of any particular beliefs or desires. rather than its equally well-predicting rivals. is taken as evidence that the man believes something is chasing him. there exists not merely a few dozen or even a few thousand different possible beliefs and desires – but an infinite number of them. while continuing to look behind him with a frightened expression on his face. One of the main ways in which a person learning to translate an unfamiliar tongue proceeds is to assume that certain verbal outbursts and certain accompanying behavior would only be produced if certain sets of beliefs and desires were in place. If there are plenty of viable alternative hypotheses that could generate the observed prediction. One of the root difficulties of belief ascription is that. Behavioral Strategies: The Problem of Alternative Hypotheses Ascribing beliefs based on behavioral evidence begins with the idea that having certain beliefs tends to cause certain behaviors. unlike the sparse fundamental building blocks of some other sciences. people-watchers of various stripes. If different beliefs and desires could have led to the same behavior. we would typically infer that a friend believes that vanilla ice cream is tastier than chocolate when he or she chooses vanilla at the ice-cream stand. seeing a man run. to help come to the conclusions that they do. however.) Whether they ever explicitly discuss it or not. use a combination of environmental and behavioral strategies. (So. then.” looking upward and scrambling for shelter or a makeshift umbrella believed that it was about to rain.Translation and Belief Ascription starts with the assumption that only certain sorts of things can cause certain resulting actions. like most scholars examining unseen entities. along with various sorts of theories about the given domain. We must begin. that merely showing that one can confirm a prediction entailed by a hypothesis isn’t enough to show that hypothesis is true. This inferred-from-behavior belief ascription is the basis for the initial hypothesis that “jhar suru garchu” should be translated as something like “rain’s coming. then observing that prediction doesn’t give you any evidence that the hypothesis in question. an anthropologist might reasonably assume that a Nepali shouting “jhar suru garchu. In our everyday lives.

Margaret Mead (1928) once attributed to a particular Samoan chief the belief that his beautiful lover Manita was far too haughty and aggressive to be a proper wife. . thus. This. She thought that this belief accounted for his lack of betrothal to Manita and his traveling to other villages to pursue other women. consistent with positing numerous different core beliefs and desires. 6. only those that could possibly cause the behavior we observe. 3. The beliefs we can reasonably ascribe using a behavioral strategy are. most researchers are keenly aware that claims they – 48 – . Because he believed that the women in the next village would find him more exotic and interesting than Manita would . 2. etc.” or “there’s a stage in a boat’s existence.” “there’s a group of undetached boat parts. Finding that the chief actually ended up taking a more docile lover in the next village would confirm each of these other hypotheses just as much as it confirms Mead’s “left in search of a more docile wife” ascription. We can think of beliefs as something like maps used for getting around the world. A central problem is that many different sorts of maps could usefully lead you to the same destination. 7. While those engaged in qualitative research seldom explicitly acknowledge the problems discussed above. . Because he had become attracted to a woman in the next village. and said “Kewo’u. makes strategies of inferring beliefs on the basis of such observations inherently risky. 5. Not knowing which of a number of different possible beliefs underlies the production of certain gestures and verbal utterances makes translation risky as well. The number of different belief and desire sets that can be alternatively responsible for the same behaviors. 4. however. Because he believed Manita would show more interest in marrying him. that he sought women in other villages: 1. if he showed he could not be taken for granted. however.Todd Jones potential belief posits. Because he desired stronger ties with friends and relatives in the next village. Any given behavior is. This chief’s desire for a less proud and arrogant wife than Manita might indeed have led him to other villages. then. Because he desired children and believed Manita couldn’t have any. of course. When the Trobrianders initially pointed to an outrigger canoe. for example. It is also possible. is a fairly weak restriction. Because he believed that he was not really good enough for Manita. Because he believed Manita had become attracted to another man and he wanted revenge.”2 The fact that an inordinate number of different sets of beliefs and desires can all generate the same behavior is the central reason for the precariousness of belief ascription using the behavioral strategy alone.” Malinowski (1922) initially had no firm way of telling whether they were thinking “there’s a boat.

“jhar suru garchu. Carpenter et al. It must be noted.3 Environmental Strategies The basic idea behind environmental strategies is that exposure to certain natural and social environments tends to cause people to form certain beliefs. that such attempts do not enable one to get around the fundamental epistemological limitations of the behavioral strategy. A translator is similarly aided in his ascription of the belief that rain is coming to the native who utters. is an attempt to enhance behavioral strategies by increasing the number of behavioral observations made. Whether one is talking about one observed behavior or ten. for example. take on many different roles and observe people in numerous different settings in order to see behavior in a wide realm of situations (Agar 1980. then. and they may well have had this belief.” and his consequent translation of this as “rain’s coming” by seeing that the native is looking at storm clouds.Translation and Belief Ascription make about people’s internal states are more problematic than claims they make about directly observable behavior. however. But the officers could form this belief only if they also knew what an American Indian was and which features were Indian rather than Chicano or Chinese. we use the information that people have been exposed to certain environments to infer that they now hold certain beliefs. What most of such methods boil down to. When we use such strategies. no doubt. helping to cause the behavior. Just as determining which beliefs cause a behavior depends on making assumptions about which other auxiliary beliefs are present. Many techniques. and despite the variety of behaviors observed. the same problems of plausible alternatives will still be present. They would only come to such a belief if they didn’t also have the belief that other locals were fond of dressing up as Indians or if they were too nearsighted to take in ethnic identities at a glance. During his study of police patrols. But it is easy to see how environmental strategies can be bedeviled by problems of knowing about the presence and absence of surrounding beliefs. greatly increases the accuracy of our belief ascriptions by enabling us to eliminate conjectures that are inconsistent with these further observations. it is the case that which beliefs will be formed in a given environment also depends on which other beliefs someone holds at the time. in hopes of increasing the likelihood that the beliefs they ascribe are more than idle speculation. Pepinsky was certainly in a position to see what the officers saw. – 49 – . are employed by practicing ethnographers who use behavioral strategies in their work. for example. however. Pepinsky (1980) claimed that the officers he was working with once singled out a car to pull over because they believed that the driver was an American Indian. 1980. Increasing the amount of observed behaviors of various sorts is certainly something to be applauded and. Cahill 1987). One can.

If we start out knowing that a certain set of beliefs and desires must be there. we must assume the presence of still other particular auxiliary beliefs that help to form the auxiliaries in question. How are we able to have so much success in navigating the social world. The worry is that one can either regress infinitely. In our everyday lives there do seem to be some ways of getting an initial bridgehead of beliefs whose existence we can be confident about. our inferences about what beliefs must result from environmental circumstances will correspondingly lack firm support. to start out assuming that a “bridgehead” of beliefs is there. proposing auxiliaries without any real evidential support. These difficulties are especially notable when we are dealing with alien cultures. and we can begin to infer what the unknown beliefs in question must be. or one can circularly recruit some of the original proposed beliefs that these other auxiliaries were themselves supposed to help justify. To know what these other beliefs are. Trying to translate alien speech by looking to the surrounding environment to enable you to discover which beliefs lie behind the verbal utterances has the same problems.Todd Jones To be able to ascribe a belief to a person on the basis of his environment. given the fundamental limits we’ve been discussing? And if there are steps we take in our everyday lives to achieve this success. then there is a much smaller possibility space of what other beliefs must be present to produce some set of behaviors. surely translators could also use such methods to make successful ascriptions to their subjects. or as the result of certain environmental conditions. – 50 – . There is a “makeshift” solution that people-watchers can use to try to overcome the problems described above. we need to know what other surrounding auxiliary beliefs are also present. we typically ascribe dozens of beliefs and desires to the people around us. providing a “makeshift” solution to the problems described above. We need. in other words. At the same time. but all the same problems exist for ascribing beliefs within a culture. When we walk down a city street on a busy afternoon. however. then we know some of the particular conditions existing which interact with general patterns of belief formation and behavior production. The “Makeshift” Solution – Using One’s Self Ascribing beliefs to others on the basis of their behavior or environmental exposure is fraught with fundamental epistemological difficulties. Surely we must be successful in our endeavors a good deal of the time. If we can safely assume the existence of this bridgehead of neighboring beliefs. or we would never be able to coordinate our activities with others. With such assumptions about which auxiliary beliefs are present lacking firm support. which prevents us from positing various and sundry logically possible belief-desire combinations (see Hollis 1982). belief ascription is one of our most ubiquitous human activities.

Translation and Belief Ascription The behavioral and environmental strategy are ways of trying to infer the existence of unobservable factors using some (at least rough) theories of belief formation and behavioral production and lots of observations. One proposal found in the belief-ascription literature is that we attribute beliefs by performing a kind of simulation. to tell us what primary beliefs are there. When using such theories to ascribe beliefs to others. All one has to do to see what they believe is to physically put oneself in their position – or imagine oneself in the other’s position – and then check to see what beliefs and desires pop into one’s own mind. Other philosophers and psychologists have proposed that in ascribing beliefs to others we do make use of vague theories about how minds work. then. gets us into trouble. Davies and Stone 1995). is through the use of analogy. We could infer what others’ beliefs and desires are like by using analogy in several ways. Ascribing beliefs in this way requires very little prior knowledge about how people’s minds work. They believe the same things we would be believing in those circumstances. or about the various primary and surrounding beliefs and desires they hold. however. are generally assumed to be the same ones that we would form in these circumstances (see Stich and Nichols 1997). (Our lack of knowledge about the particular conditions – other beliefs – that we need to conjoin with these theories. we know what they are likely to believe and desire in particular circumstances. If others’ minds indeed work like ours do. Which beliefs others will form on the basis of certain environmental exposure and certain previously held beliefs. instead of using our observations of others to try to justify the positing of auxiliary beliefs one by one. it is clear that if others really are like us. besides knowing theories and conditions. We may not be able to see inside other people’s heads – but we actually can see inside the heads of people who seem to be very much like them: ourselves. think a lot like we do. we can use ourselves as models both of what prior beliefs exist and which beliefs get formed in certain circumstances. both inside and outside our culture. If we can assume that others. this provides a pretty good indication that these thoughts are what appear in their minds in such situations (see Gordon 1986. Goldman 1989. Whatever the details of how we go about actually ascribing beliefs to others. and the simulation is a realistic one.) But an additional way that scientists and lay people alike typically try to understand the nature of unobserved factors. and about the types of beliefs and desires people tend to have. What they are trying to communicate when they speak is likely to be the same things we believe and would try to communicate. We do not need to establish all of these with the intensive unending empirical investigations – 51 – . then even without knowing much about perceptual mechanisms or about others’ surrounding beliefs. we tend to make a blanket default assumption that the relevant surrounding interacting beliefs held by others in a given situation are similar to those that we have – unless there are specific reasons to believe otherwise.

however. Our familiarity with this convention means that none of our compatriots takes this verbal behavior to signal an underlying belief that chance or decision-making works this way. We can’t assume we can uncover the beliefs of exotic people just by imagining what we would believe were we in their shoes. it is quite permissible for us to talk using words that seem to imply we believe that luck is a person determining the outcome of games of chance (Keesing 1985) or that we make decisions with our stomachs (see also Lakoff and Johnson 1980). a tribe now well known to the world through the ethnographic writings of Colin Turnbull. – 52 – . “The danger of our constructing nonexistent metaphysical schemes that seem to be implied by conventional metaphors but would be meaningless or absurd to native speakers if they could read what we write about them raises ethnographic nightmares for me. for example. People interested in ascribing beliefs to exotic peoples and translating their utterances can also be thrown off the track by a lack of familiarity with the local conventions about when it is permissible to make assertions using non-literal metaphorical language.” Such nightmarish inaccurate attributions do not seem to be uncommon. Similarly. Self-knowledge and simulation are not enough.” writes anthropologist Roger Keesing. Heine writes. or that Captain Cook was believed to be the god Lono. and that others are often indeed a lot like us.Todd Jones required by the behavioral and environmental strategies. is that often the people whose language we want to translate hold beliefs that are quite different from our own. “We have no reason to assume either that other peoples’ schemes of conventional metaphor are more deeply expressive of cosmological schemes than our own or that their ‘cultural models’ are more uniform than ours. None of Captain Cook’s men. In exotic cases. The linguist Heine for example restudied the Ik. is that less familiarity with the linguistic conventions and the surrounding beliefs gives them more difficulty with inferring what the underlying beliefs really are when they hear such possibly metaphorical phrases. an anthropologist could not tell how Western airplanes were perceived by Melanesian “cargo cultists” just by looking up at the planes and introspecting. A worry for translators. however. It is likely that one of the main reasons we are as successful as we are at belief ascription is that we do use ourselves as models. a vast knowledge of the native belief system is often needed to know what natives believe. were in any position to know by introspection that the Hawaiian natives saw their ship as carrying a forest. for example. even in what seems like very straightforward perceptual situations. Problems for Using the “Makeshift” Solution in Exotic Translation Cases A central problem for the kind of belief ascription a translator needs to do. In everyday English.

Self-introspection.or herself to the same unsure ground that people are on in ascribing beliefs to people in one’s own culture. We are further informed that “A soul is round and red but it has no arms or legs. Stephen Stich argues that a consequence of this view is that when the surrounding network of beliefs that a mental state interacts with is very different from that of the mental state we typically call “the belief that p. a strange idea to the Ik. while making it easier to ascribe beliefs in one’s own culture. is the way in which that belief interacts with the rest of a person’s beliefs and with perception and behavior. What makes a particular mental state the belief that p.” “soul. the soul. . the problems are less epistemological than metaphysical. On the communication end. if what makes some mental state the belief that p is partly a function – 53 – . or the likely source of behavior. and more participation in the exotic culture. And even if the ethnographer somehow manages to become completely nativized. (Heine 1985). and thinks and talks just like the natives do. because these relationships define the belief. Once the beliefs underlying a speaker’s utterances have been understood. Similarly. which “flies past the moon that is good and the sun that is bad. . then. .” as Turnbull (1974: 153. The exacerbation of the belief-ascription problems stemming from the unfamiliarity of other cultures can certainly be lessened the more experience one has with the exotic culture. Problems in Communicating Exotic Beliefs Difficult as it is to correctly ascribe beliefs to exotic peoples. that there is gor. It rests somewhere in the vicinity of the stomach . This is hardly surprising since gor (more precisely gur) is the Ik word for heart which is occasionally used to mean “spirit. and on to the stars where the abang have their eternal existence” (Turnbull 1974: 161). More observation. The word abang means “my father” and in no way refers to “ancestors” or “ancestral spirits.” then. he or she has only elevated him.Translation and Belief Ascription We are told . a translator also has the task of communicating what these speech-generating beliefs are. This task of trying to communicate by giving intentional characterizations of the native beliefs also leads to fundamental problems. .” That gor is able to fly to the stars where the abang live is. a potential translator’s troubles would not be over. is often far less helpful for uncovering beliefs in alien cultures. Most contemporary philosophers assume a “functional role” theory of what gives a belief (at least part of) its content. he or she is likely to always make errors due to interference from old ingrained western ideas about the significance of some external item.” (Turnbull 1974: 161). however. 167) claims. even if he or she could somehow overcome these problems. But no matter how fully nativized an ethnographer may become through participant observation. such a belief does not count as the belief that p. will certainly enhance knowledge of linguistic-behavior conventions and perhaps allow one to “think more like a native” oneself.

however. for he claims that the quite normally endowed male and female couple. if a subject’s mental state is not caused by stimuli similar to the ones which lead me to believe there is an elephant in front of me.Todd Jones of how a belief interacts with other beliefs in the process of inference. None of this is possible. and the pattern of causal interactions with each other and with stimuli are reasonably similar to our own . . then a belief existing in a cognitive economy that produced very different inferences than our beliefs would should also be unable to be characterized as “the belief that p. then these differences make alien mental states. Similarly. and if it does not interact with other mental states in a way similar to the way mine would. we must be able to identify certain of his beliefs as conditionals and others as disjunctions. . essentially. for any English characterization implicitly claims that the belief characterized this way is linked to a particular set of other beliefs in the ways that these beliefs are typically linked in our culture – linkages that may well not be there in the alien culture. or if their beliefs dynamically interact with each other in ways different than our beliefs do. we cannot clearly say what those beliefs are. Stich argues that if a person’s beliefs interact with each other and with external stimuli in ways different from the ways our beliefs interact with each other. Consider the case of someone whose beliefs in a given realm interact with each other differently and cause different inferences than the mental states we usually term “the belief that p” and “the belief that q” do in our culture. .” Indeed. . we must be able to say that certain of his beliefs are (or are not) about elephants. . we find that they are quite bizarre. it does not count as a conditional belief.” The central problem for describing the beliefs of exotic people is that if they have beliefs surrounded by networks of other beliefs that are very different from ours. Stich asks us to consider the case of John who is told he has latent homosexual tendencies and who accepts this diagnosis. If a subject’s mental state does not interact with other mental states in a pattern which approximates the pattern exhibited by our own conditional beliefs. If we want to have an intentional characterization of a subject’s mental states. (1990: 47) Our intuitions that the contents of a truly alien belief state cannot be characterized by an English sentence are particularly strong when we consider other types of case in which the network of beliefs that a particular mental state interacts with (what Stich calls the doxastic surround) is different from the network of beliefs surrounding our mental states. writes Stich. unless the subject’s beliefs and desires. asserting: – 54 – . different sorts of belief states than ones we’d characterize with the English phrase “the belief that p. then it does not count as a belief that there is an elephant in front of him. When we ask about John’s beliefs about sexuality. no English characterization will suffice. John and Mary are homosexuals. however. we must be able to determine whether eating chocolate ice cream is the object of one of his desires.

Yet if we tried to attribute a belief using any other of our content-sentences. Even with a less exotic claim like “Cohen believed he was owed five times the value of the merchandise stolen from him by the robbers’ tribe” (Geertz 1973: 8). When people use the belief labels associated with a particular doxastic surround in our culture to characterize the mental states of an alien person. (1983: 138–9) If Stich’s claims about these cases are correct. The doxastic surround of [his] belief – his theory of sexuality – is sufficiently different from the doxastic surround of the belief that we might express with the same sentence. when the question is raised without some specific context in mind. we would still have the same problem. but sometimes they are not . homosexual acts never result in pregnancy. . there is clearly a problem for anthropologists and other translators when they try to make claims about the beliefs and utterances of exotic peoples with very different beliefs or thinking patterns from ours. What is it that John believes when he says “I have latent homosexual tendencies?” Writes Stich. I know John and Mary quite well and I am convinced that. despite their anatomy. in these cases we are dealing with beliefs with a doxastic surround that is radically different from the doxastic environment of any of our beliefs. the mental states in question here is likely to function very differently than the mental state that we expect to be there on the basis of that English characterization. Any English sentences we’d use to attribute particular beliefs to them would lead our compatriots to think that the natives have mental states surrounded by the kind of belief networks that surround our mental states characterized by such sentences. Maleness and femaleness are basic irreducible properties of people. .Translation and Belief Ascription What sex a person is is not a function of anatomy. Of course. there is simply no saying. How are we to characterize the precise contents of the beliefs of Azande tribesmen who make statements that we translate as saying that all the Azande are related. they are prevented from – 55 – . For the concept of “owing” and the related concept of “compensation” will be linked to beliefs in the alien culture that are different in our belief-networks. but that some but not all Azande are witches (Evans-Prichard 1937: 24)? What do the Nuer believe when they make a claim that we try to translate as “twins are birds” (EvansPrichard 1956)? What do the Bororo believe when they make a claim translated as “we are red Macaws” (Lévy-Bruhl 1926)? Surely. Nor is there any other content sentence available in our language which folk intuition would clearly find appropriate in this case. we are surely dealing with ideas that have a doxastic surround that is unlike the network of assumptions surrounding our own beliefs. These properties are often correlated with anatomical differences. they are both female. that it is just not clear whether or not his belief counts as the belief that he has latent homosexual tendencies. so no children will result from their sexual relations. With a different doxastic surround. and that every relative of a witch is also a witch.

One Way of Resolving these Problems Let us take stock. Translators communicate information about others’ beliefs to a target audience by assuming that the members of this audience possess a certain model of which mental states do what (based on themselves). including the sex act itself. we seem to rely on a rough particularistic model/theory of what beliefs are there and how they function: they work pretty much like they do in our own cases. Functional Role Descriptions of Mental States It is important to note that the problems described above should not be thought of as unique to anthropology or translation studies. phantom activities of a phantom body in which the true body is not involved” (Ekvall 1964: 70). are an illusion. I have argued that there are serious difficulties inherent in the ways we usually try to do both. To understand others’ beliefs. There are many areas of study that are interested in uncovering and describing the mental states responsible for behavior. Translators typically try to uncover unknown beliefs by gathering information on behavior and environment. These theories/models won’t work for uncovering or describing mental states when the states in question do not function like ours. and assuming that they can describe the beliefs of others by identifying them with mental states from this familiar model. The same is true for artificial-intelligence researchers – 56 – . and figuring out what unknown “missing variable” beliefs must be there. Many of these areas would suffer from the same problems described above if they tried to describe mental states using English-language belief-content sentences. Relying on these models may work well enough when we are talking about people like ourselves whose minds really do work according to the way the model says they should. of psychotics. using our minds as models.Todd Jones accurately conceptualizing this native belief in terms of the doxastic surround typically assumed to be there by those in the native culture. All of the same problems of belief ascription should surely pop up in these cases as well as among the Yanamamo. we must be able to uncover and communicate their beliefs. how can we hope to be able to say clearly what Tibetans believe about lamas having sex when they say that “all the details of the affair. Very few disciplines are concerned to uncover only generalizations about the mental lives of people like ourselves. Psychologists often investigate the mental lives of very young children. If we don’t really know how to characterize the beliefs of the person from our own culture with odd beliefs about sexuality. If translating the statements of exotic people involves uncovering and communicating their beliefs. The problems seem to stem from the same source. and of monkeys or rats.

While the problems discussed above should manifest themselves most severely in certain types of cultural anthropology. Describing someone’s thinking. Knowing the exact physical makeup of the neurological states involved in the computation. A computer is a physical instantiation of a formal system. however. A physical computer is a machine configured in a way such that certain physical states are set up to combine with and produce other states in ways that mirror the specified relations and sequences in the abstract formal system it is instantiating. with inputs and with outputs. the computational paradigm is committed to the view that what determines the nature of any particular mental state is the way that these states are positioned to interact with the other mental states within the cognitive system. In much of cognitive psychology. It seems to me that contemporary cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline that has come to be structured in a manner that enables the kinds of problem described above to be bypassed. Ned Block (1980).Translation and Belief Ascription investigating how to get machines to think and understand. Much of contemporary cognitive psychology subscribes to what is known as the computational paradigm. In a formal system there are syntactic rules specifying the ways in which some tokens can combine with other tokens to produce certain resulting “legal” token sequences. in this approach. The computational paradigm assumes that the brain is one such physical machine that instantiates complex formal systems.” Stich. The various “data structure items” or “tokens” that the brain computes with are neurological states. like – 57 – . one needn’t rely on English language content characterizations to identify which mental states are which. In the view of philosophers like Stich. When mental states are individuated in this manner. mental states are individuated on the basis of how these states interact with surrounding mental states. in terms of each state’s role in a cognitive economy. is analogous to describing the way a mechanical computer program interacts with and transforms various data structure items in response to inputs. so long as the neurological states involved interact with other neurological states in ways that mirror the syntactic rules of the formal system that the computing brain is supposed to be instantiating. The central assumption of the computational paradigm is that the mind is a kind of computer. the great advantage of describing mental states using cognitive science’s computational vocabulary is that this allows us to more efficiently describe peoples’ thought processes by “eliminating the middleman. Are there ways that such disciplines have managed to avoid these problems. is unimportant for describing how thinking works. Robert Cummins (1983). and Hartry Field (1977). ways that those interested in translation should pay attention to? Let us look first at the issue of communicating and describing exotic mental states. Such states can thus be identified by the relations they have with the other states in the formal system that they instantiate. they have the potential to cause havoc in various disciplines investigating the mind. In Stich’s view.

we are able to characterize the cognitive state of a subject in terms appropriate to the subject rather than in terms that force a comparison between the subject and ourselves. What we think of as the content of a belief is determined. we don’t do it in a long-winded manner. While characterizing a mental state this way enables us to understand lots about its connections with other mental states quickly. will lead people to think they do interact with surrounding states the way our beliefs do. We can do this instead of having to say “Majid believes that p” which leads others to assume that Majid is in a mental state that really interacts with the particular surrounding belief network in the way that the hearer’s “belief that p” does. the computational paradigm lets us identify mental states by directly specifying these states’ roles in the native cognitive economy (once we uncover what that is. in other words. using methods discussed below). It is that state that interacts with other states in the same way that the state which causes me to assert p interacts with its neighbors. Instead. Giving it this label enables us to tell what kind of state it is and what connections it has with other states in one fell swoop. Giving these alien mental states English characterizations. specifying the numerous causal connections this mental state has to other states (and to input and behavior). (1983: 158) A functional-role computational description. this type of characterization. And this eliminates the central problem of [intentional ascription]. becomes very problematic when we use it to describe the thinking of people different from ourselves. gives us a fine-grained and flexible way of describing the dynamics of other peoples’ mental states. They may also not interact with each other to produce the same inferences. With the computational paradigm. When we want to identify which belief we are talking about. as – 58 – . Instead. The problem is that the mental states of exotic people may well not have the kind of doxastic surround that our beliefs which we label “the belief that p” have. as we have seen. by the way that this mental state interacts with other surrounding mental states.Todd Jones Quine (1960) believes that when we characterize a belief by giving it the label “the belief that p. we characterize such states in a relatively quick and dirty way by labeling them as being states that are similar to the internal states that lead us to sincerely assert p. in part. we can directly say things like “then Majid will go into mental state y” where y has been defined in terms of its actual doxastic surround and its role in inference producing. But we can avoid giving people such misleading characterizations of alien mental states if we eliminate the “middleman move” in which we specify the connections by comparing these states to our own states and the connections they have.” we are saying that the person the belief is being attributed to is in a mental state similar to the one I would be in were I to sincerely assert p (Stich 1990: 48). With a computational description like this. since there is no risk of generalizations being lost when subjects are so different from us that folk psychology is at a loss to describe them. Stich writes. however. however.

is structured in a way that enables researchers to avoid the problems associated with characterizing mental states with ordinary intentional descriptions. by characterizing Ifaluk mental states more directly through functional-role descriptions. Nevertheless. then. behavioral outputs and other mental states. A good example of the similarity between anthropological approaches to belief ascription and the kind of functional-role approach used in cognitive psychology can be seen in Catherine Lutz’s works on emotion terms used among the Ifaluk people of Micronesia.” The holistic network of thoughts we assume to be there interacting with the type of mental state we label “the belief that p” will not be the network in Ifaluk minds. Functional-Role Strategies in Anthropology It seems to me that anthropologists often manage to avoid the types of intentionalascription problem discussed by philosophers by using a strategy that is substantively similar to cognitive psychology’s functional-role approach. we can avoid using a vocabulary that forces all cognitive agents to be described as if they think like us or that is unable to describe their mental life at all.4 Like many anthropologists. seeks to directly identify a mental state in terms of how it interacts with perception. Instead. despite intentionalascription difficulties. I believe that the way she is able to do this. Lutz explicitly avoids using direct English translations to describe how the Ifaluk are thinking. Lutz appears to do a credible job telling us how the Ifaluk think about emotions. recall. is by avoiding “middleman” intentional ascriptions based on comparison to our own supposedly similar mental states and. and the behaviors it tends to cause. and other mental states. the other mental states it tends to lead to. The computational paradigm.S. whose causal relations with other mental states are pre-specified as having the connections with the specific doxastic surrounding states of our cognitive economy. there is no way we can characterize Ifaluk thinking by saying “the Ifaluk believe p. This strategy. for example. These native terms are then explicated by carefully describing the typical perceptual situations that lead to this state. Lutz claims that Ifaluk thinking in a certain realm differs drastically from the way we think about this realm in the West and seeks to describe these differences. instead. tells us of an Ifaluk woman who doesn’t want to look at the people she sees in a U. So what we might be tempted to term “the belief that p” among the Ifaluk isn’t really the same kind of mental state as the one we call “belief that p” among ourselves at all.Translation and Belief Ascription opposed to the coarse-grained intentional descriptions. She – 59 – . behavior. Navy film because of the fago she feels for them. would claim that if the Ifaluk really think quite differently from us. By directly describing mental states in terms of their relations to perceptual inputs. however. in that realm. she talks about Ifaluk thinking by beginning with the terms that the natives use for conceptualizing what is going on in a given realm. Numerous philosophers. Lutz.

The notion of misbehavior. but it includes an emphasis on moral condemnation directed at social taboo-breaking that is lacking in Western notions of anger. timid and shy. however. is one that must be explicated carefully in terms of its place in the network of Ifaluk ideas and not just translated into a Western counterpart. Ifaluk thinking and terminology is instead explicated by describing how these ideas function in Ifaluk conceptualizations of their social worlds. for example. Song. Lutz also reports on an Ifaluk man criticizing his brother’s persistent drinking by saying “you do not fago my thoughts” (1985: 120). but rather more from inner fearfulness. Lutz tells us. is not really what we mean by “calmness” in the West. By giving us a series of rich contextualized examples. One must keep children in line. What is a bad state to be in. A calm maluwelu person is gentle. and 2) to name Englishlanguage terms that we should specifically avoid thinking of the Ifaluk concept (e. Drunk Ifaluk sometimes say they fago themselves. and sadness). A maluwelu person is one a Westerner might think of as calm. for example. as when fago is described in terms of an amalgam of what we would call compassion. Calmness is not something that stems at all from inner confidence. however. One does this by showing them that you are song about their behavior. Lutz discusses. Ifaluk men are said to feel fago for their drunken compatriots. for unlike our notion of timid or fearful. it is not done as a translation of Ifaluk thinking but instead serves 1) to quickly get us into the general ball-park ‘genus’ functional role that this concept is playing. is one that the Ifaluk call ker. We slowly build up a sense of when Ifaluk people will and won’t see someone as feeling fago. Lutz slowly and carefully makes clear just how the Ifaluk are conceptualizing each others’ emotions and behaviors when they speak of them using the term of fago. Disobedience among children. avoiding scaring or offending others. when an Ifaluk woman may think that another woman is maluwelu. A ker state is something like happiness or excitement. Being metagu is seen as a state that prevents one from being offensive and boastful. though. by preventing them from becoming ker. However. for they see it as invariably leading to raucous misbehavior. the term maluwelu is closely related to the Ifaluk term metagu – which means something like afraid or anxious. But calmness among the Ifaluk. The Ifaluk do not think of this as we think of happiness. however. is something like anger. The Ifaluk will regularly tell each other stories in which they freely and shamelessly admit how metagu they were in certain situations. – 60 – .Todd Jones goes on to talk of fighting brothers being separated and asked why they aren’t showing fago for each other. love.g. When English terminology is introduced. Lutz tells us. the metagu state is regarded by the Ifaluk as a highly desirable state that it is not bad to be in. Lutz writes. we should not think of metagu as really being what we mean by fearful. “is both tolerated and even positively sanctioned if it derives from the timidity associated with being calm” (1987: 112). Lutz tells us. Indeed. itself. and how the fago concept interacts with other central Ifaluk ideas.

The meaning of a term like maluwelu is further explicated by Lutz describing numerous types of perceptual situation in which someone would be labeled maluwelu or not labeled maluwelu. Below. etc. (They also point out that Malinowski often did not practice what he preached).Translation and Belief Ascription Here. in his Chapter 8 of this volume. Malinowski himself wrote of words that can only be translated “not by giving their imaginary equivalent – a real one obviously cannot be found – but by explaining the meaning of each of them through an exact Ethnographic account of the sociology. of course. Making Anthropological Functional Role More Precise In the last section I discussed the heretofore unnoticed similarities between certain approaches in anthropology and functional-role approaches in cognitive psychology. are avoided. Michael Silverstein describes how it is highly commonplace for anthropologists to deal with “untranslatable” by doing just what Lutz does – using the native term and giving long ethnographic descriptions of the context of use for this term. maluwelu and other Ifaluk notions are explicated by Lutz. and tradition of that community “ (1923: 300). “middleman” intentional descriptions. by showing how vast numbers of other Ifaluk notions are bound up in their use. Benson Saler. but to teach us anew the polysemic senses of the native terms in a manner analogous to the way in which priests are expected to make sense of exotic doctrines to their flocks. is essentially the functional-role strategy. in which a mental state is named according to its supposed similarity with one of our labeled mental states. culture. – 61 – . In his Chapter 3 contribution to this volume. I describe another “functionalist” approach that I believe could work even better. which directly characterizes mental states in terms of their place in a detailed holistic causal network. Her “translations” are not done by describing the ideas and mental states underlying Ifaluk utterances using English belief sentences. has a long history in anthropology. imaginatively describes this process of making the native term clear where the point is not to substitute our familiar terms for native unfamiliar ones. I believe that this approach to translation is certainly superior to one that seeks to find English equivalents for native terms. Lutz’s anthropological approach. avoiding the philosophical intentional-ascription problems in roughly the same manner. Ifaluk thinking about maluwelu persons is described here by characterizing how it is that such thoughts interact with other thoughts (and behavior. As in cognitive psychology. As Rosman and Rubel point out in Chapter 11 of this volume. in part. The ideas underlying Ifaluk utterances are thus described more accurately.). This “thick description” approach to translation. This is just the way mental states are characterized in cognitive psychology. She also describes the types of behavior the Ifaluk would engage in toward someone that they thought of as maluwelu.

They would be able to make such claims. This sort of work is already going on in what is sometimes called cognitive anthropology (see for example Hutchins 1980. created by plugging particularistic information about native knowledge into general models of human cognition. to recurrently recount the same religious explanations for certain types of event (Jones 1987). about the kinds of mental structure that have to be in place in order to produce such inferences (see for example Anderson 1983. Colby 1985). If anthropologists find that models of native thinking. An anthropologist such as Geertz. This provides an account for why certain ideas and actions stereotypically occur as they do in Tibetan culture. not only by using their knowledge of which particular kinds of thing have come to be mentally associated with each other in that culture. while some anthropologists are very interested in which kinds of inference and association are produced at what times as we have seen. one should not overlook the fact that. there are numerous differences in the research foci of the two approaches as well. Such anthropologists seem content with the idea that these mental states have some sort of associative connection where some thoughts somehow “call up” other thoughts. In my own work. currently. but he shows little interest in examining the details of the kind of architecture needed to enable these mental states to interact with one another in particular ways. don’t work very well. cognitive psychologists usually specify fairly precise theories. Cognitive psychologists have long been very interested in the particular mechanisms by which certain mental states are formed and certain inferences made. I believe that “thick description” of this sort could be made more precise and more accurate if such anthropologists incorporated specific computational models into their functional-role descriptions of mental-state interconnections. functionalrole-oriented anthropologists would be able to greatly increase the plausibility of any claim that their subjects were likely to be in particular mental states at any given time. often implementable as a computer program. By incorporating precise models of mental structures into their work. most give little thought to the kinds of mechanism needed to enact these kinds of mental-state linkage. is interested in which ideas typically interact with what other items in the belief networks of members of a particular culture. I have looked at how universal cognitive constraints (as described by Anderson 1983) in the formation and retrieval of knowledge lead Tibetans. for example. By contrast. they might easily suggest new models of human cognition that better explain the – 62 – .Todd Jones However. One of the chief differences is the level of precision sought in describing and modeling peoples’ mental activities. The benefits of moving in the direction of more detailed and precise models of the native thinking would not likely be all one-sided. Wyer and Srull 1986). In making a claim that a person will tend to go into a certain mental state in certain circumstances. growing up in the environments they do. but also by using a knowledge of what general types of mentally associated item tend to be activated in a mental economy at what times.

as well as causal links with stimuli and behavioral events. If functional-role-oriented anthropological approaches were to develop in more precise ways which made them more akin to functional-role theories in cognitive psychology. the most natural approach for anthropologists interested in describing the mental states of exotic people to use is one that Stich terms the “fat syntax” view of cognition. These new proposed models could then be tested with other populations. If this is right. On closer inspection. . even their current vague form. (1983: 149) What characterizes a particular mental state. More briefly. . This claim may seem surprising. After all. What makes it a “fat” syntax is that the state’s relations to stimuli and behavior are as essential to its characterization as its relation to other internal inference-producing states. and integrated with other new ideas about cognition.” Unlike many cognitive theories. Cognitive psychology would then derive some benefits from anthropology as well. Lutz’s work seems to explain what tends to happen in the mental lives of her subjects by giving complex descriptions of the contents of their mental states. on which of the various general formulations of cognitive functional-role theory was adopted. Stich describes the fat-syntax view this way: The basic idea . Indeed. like many theories in cognitive science. I would claim that these anthropological descriptions of the mental are more easily seen as – 63 – . however. is that cognitive states whose interaction is (in part) responsible for behavior can be systematically mapped to abstract syntactic objects in such a way that causal interactions among cognitive states. say. rather than by. What’s important in theories of cognition. semantic content plays little role in explaining native thinking using anthropological functional-role approaches. is what mental states do. What it would look like would depend even more heavily.Translation and Belief Ascription thinking of the people studied. In my view. however. The fat-syntax view of mental functioning. on this view. What such a more precise functional-role-oriented anthropology would ultimately look like. then. neurological characteristics or phenomenal “feel. then it will be natural to view cognitive states as tokens of abstract syntactic objects. holds that the defining criterion of being a particular mental state is based on the way in which that state interacts with other mental states. in this view. the fat-syntax view holds that no attention needs to be paid to the semantic evaluation of mental states. is not the semantic content of that state but the way it syntactically interacts with other syntactic relationally-defined states. can be described in terms of the syntactic properties and relations of the abstract objects to which the cognitive states are mapped. would depend on which models of the various proposed internal cognitive mechanisms would be used. not what they are about. the idea is that causal relations among cognitive states mirror formal relations among syntactic objects. of course. I believe this is illusory. the fat-syntax view of cognition is the most natural approach to adopt.

if the people observed are close to 50 years old or over (typical other causal antecedents. we refer to this sort of thing as “saying what beliefs a person has. three central tasks of cognitive theories are: to describe a set of primitive symbols.” Now it is easy to see how someone could give a syntactic characterization of particular combinations of internal symbol strings. stating which types of new resulting string sequence should be produced at which time (Fodor 1975. An anthropologist might describe how there is a mental state EFG. that anthropologists began using sophisticated cognitive theories to explain what their subjects are likely to be thinking at certain times. recall. Computer programs are a physical instantiation of a system of formal syntactic rules specifying the ways in which some token entities can combine with other tokens in order to produce certain resulting “legal” token combinations. 3) generally leads a typical Ifaluk to go into another internal state KLM. Because of a basis in the computational paradigm. They would have to make use of ideas about the rules governing state-to-state transitions (the kinds of generalizations most cognitive psychologists spend most of their time trying to uncover). however. 4) usually causes them to go into go another internal state. HIJ. and to specify state-to-state transition rules. the syntactic theory of mind’s most vocal critic. On most (non-connectionist) views of cognitive science. which Ifaluk persons commonly go into. In everyday English. Cummins 1983). it is clear that most functionalrole theories of the mental (not just fat syntax) are largely centered around formal syntactic structuring.Todd Jones making use of a syntactic theory of the mind (albeit currently in a vague way) than are most other descriptions of mental functioning. and inferential effects for each of these other internal states can also be specified). 2) is sometime produced when drunken men are seen laughing and singing. which: 1) is often produced when children are seen laughing and chasing each other. linguistics. 7) causes them to scold the ker people. now. – 64 – . They also. even Jerry Fodor. Indeed. which makes them unlikely to leave the area where the event they’ve been observing is happening. to specify some formal rules stating the ways these primitives can be combined into more complex objects. 6) causes them to say “those people have become ker” when asked. Imagine. have to be able to give some description of the particular sets of symbol strings that are causing other symbol strings to be produced in a rule-governed way. once wrote that “What we’re doing [in AI. Stich 1983. behavioral effects. during which small sounds can startle them immensely and has numerous effects on other dispositions. views the mind as a sort of computer. if they have authority over them. The computational paradigm. 5) will inferentially produce the mental state NOP. and cognitive psychology] is really a kind of logical syntax (only psychologized)” (1978: 223).

(Alternatively. They would be described by specifying what they do. While semantic-centered accounts of thinking seem to be unable to tell us how alien peoples are thinking in difficult cases. who are all related to the witches among them. in combination with other states. We can show how the state underlying the Nuer assertion is one that they enter when they say that twins are conceived in a special holy manner. you would have syntactic characterizations of such mental states. output. Mental states that result in.Translation and Belief Ascription If mental states were described this way by anthropologists. It is not clear which statements – 65 – . While one might additionally give a description of the content of a mental state to quickly give readers a general heuristic ball-park picture of the mental states. syntactic characterizations avoid these difficulties. It is a mental state which can combine with a different state – one which we see has the function of prohibiting kin to harm other close kin – to produce an inferred mental state which underlies an assertion we translate as saying that twins should never eat birds’ eggs. A semantic evaluation of this sentence is problematic because there is no sentence we can imagine ourselves sincerely uttering that would have the kind of doxastic inferential links to other beliefs that our utterance of that sentence would require in our language. Looking at it in terms of it’s entire doxastic surround (which is far richer then merely calling it a “metaphorical belief”) we can also show that it is not a mental state which ever produces the inference that twins can fly – an inference that might be made. when a conceptual constraint on something’s counting as linguistic behavior at all is that most utterances are true (see Davidson 1984). because this would contradict their claim that not all the Azande. or result from. and other mental state syntactically produce and are produced by this state. making them gaat kwoth. are witches. the semantics would not really be playing any part in the explanation of the thinking and behavior of the peoples described. Take a sentence that initially seems to translate as the assertion by Nuer people that “a twin is not a person (ran). leads the Nuer to place the bodies of dead twins on platforms. rather than burying them. if we were to characterize that state merely by using the content sentence that seemed to fit it best. rather than by giving a “meaning” or “content” using a substitutable English-language phrase. it is problematic because it seems to be wildly untrue. It is a state that. so that their souls can depart into the air where they belong. (something like “children of god/spirit”) – a term also used to describe the birds which freely fly through the sky/spirit realm. We can’t comfortably ascribe to the Azande the belief that all relatives of a witch are also witches. We can characterize the mental state underlying the Nuer assertion by saying what kinds of input. he is a bird (dit)” (Evans-Prichard 1956: 129).) With a syntactic account we don’t have to translate this state by giving some sort of equivalent sentence. non-standard inferences are also straightforwardly describable using a fat-syntax approach.

Todd Jones they hold true. so long as there is no mechanism for detecting and eliminating what can be seen as contradictory beliefs – or if there is only a weak mechanism for doing so. as no English pair of sentences corresponding to what seems to be the Azande belief pair could normally be sincerely asserted at the same time. while at the same time. This sort of mental functioning is consequently more easily described using syntactic rather than a semantic characterization. a different mental state produces actions and inferences etc. irrespective of what the persevering beliefs are about. on the other hand. As most of the mechanisms proposed are very general mechanisms that work. However useful content-sentence-based or other semantic descriptions of mental states may be in some realms. Many cognitive psychologists. in the way we would expect a state labeled “witches’ relatives are also witches” would. have carefully documented that belief perseverance in the face of various contrary evidence of this sort is a remarkably widespread phenomenon. there is no problem in holding that the Azande do indeed have mental states we might roughly characterize in this way. contrary to first impressions. there is nothing implausible about such states coexisting in a single mind. for an example). I suggest that. It is not clear which content sentences are accurately ascribable to them. a completely syntactic version of functional-role theory will be the most useful one to adopt. Slightly more problematic is the explanation of joint perseverance of certain mental states after they have been pointed out as being contradictory in their semantic characterizations. – 66 – . With a syntactic theory. We just have to show that there is a mental state (or mental states) that functions in the cognitive economy in a way that the belief that “not all the Azande are witches” would. however. Syntactic characterizations of mental statements seem to show a great deal of promise at precisely the places content-sentence-based ascription fails most strikingly. Anthropologists using thick description could most easily extend and make more precise the sort of functional-role characterization they are already engaged in by formulating descriptions of specific mental mechanisms and mental states using the terminology of fat syntax. Moreover. there is little problem giving such mechanisms a completely syntactic characterization (see Stich 1983. chapter 6. If using functional-role theories is indeed the way anthropological descriptions can get around intentional-ascription worries. The fact that such states can easily be labeled with semantic descriptions that contradict each other is no problem as long as their syntactic characterizations can account for what these people do. This is the best way to get at the exotic beliefs that really underlie the utterances we wish to translate. They have proposed various mechanisms for explaining how such perseverance might work (see Nisbett and Ross 1980). syntactic descriptions do a far better job of characterizing the functioning of kinds of mental state anthropologists are interested in.

starting from this universal base. We would be better at uncovering beliefs. Presumably. Models of associative memory could tell us about the relative importance of the frequency of seeing an example of a category (like dog) and its effects on the likelihood of recalling that particular example when the category is mentioned (as opposed to the effect of other factors like recency. all human beings are born equipped with 1) some innate belief-forming mechanisms and innate beliefs. Such a strategy will not work to the extent that others’ minds work differently than our own. we know they’ll have no beliefs about such colors. We could then construct more specific models of particular minds. If we use models centered around ourselves as our guides for uncovering belief. If we know. And ethnographic research could tell us about the types of dog that natives are likely to most frequently encounter. tendency to abstract. then. The more information we have about these general-information-processing and -organizing mechanisms. for example. the more information we will have about which type of internal structure must be at work producing a particular behavior. We would then know more about what particular examples of dogs they are most likely thinking of when they seem to be speaking about dogs. The more information we have on which general types of structure tend to produce certain behaviors.).Translation and Belief Ascription Using Cognitive Theories in Uncovering Mental States I’ve argued that using cognitive theories could allow belief ascribers and translators to describe and communicate about others’ mental states more effectively than could be done by strategies which use ourselves as models. People also come with some innate mechanisms for putting innate beliefs and desires – and the new ones formed as a result of these mechanisms interacting with the environment – into use at particular times to create new behaviors and thoughts. etc. this is an auxiliary desire we can usually count on as being there. If we know that almost all people desire to avoid sex with close kin. then observing others’ behavior leads us to infer that the beliefs underlying that behavior must be the beliefs that would produce such behavior in ourselves. Earlier I – 67 – . that people cannot perceive colors beyond a certain wavelength. by starting off with a more universalistic model of mind which specified the sorts of mental states that underlie human behavior in general. rather than a model that specifies the sorts of mental states that underlie our own behavior. Instead of ascribing beliefs based on the environmental and behavioral strategies. the more restrictions we can put on which beliefs and desires are likely to result from the specific inputs people are receiving from certain environments. lots of constraints specifying what could be believed at a given time could come from constraints on the possible ways information can be internally organized. I think the same can be said about uncovering which beliefs or other mental states exotic people hold. constrained only by a rough selfbased model. and 2) some innate desires and desire-forming mechanisms.

in fields ranging from neuroscience to ethology. sees the act of translating someone’s utterances or inscriptions as centering around uncovering and communicating the beliefs held by the speakers. The dominant philosophical theory of translation.Todd Jones discussed how one can more adequately describe the mental states underling verbal and non-verbal behavior by showing how these states are the product of particular local ideas. successful mental-state description need not imply successful intentional ascription and similarity to ourselves. In this chapter. A “fat-syntax” cognitive theory can enable us to describe mental states even if they are beyond these similarity-based limits of what’s intentionally describable. By behavior. We would be do well to monitor their findings. Concluding Remarks Many scholars have written about the difficulties of translation.” as such a state would be so different from anything labeled the “belief that p” in our language and culture. are inherently fraught with epistemological and metaphysical difficulties. The act of trying to translate an alien utterance. These sorts of mental-state constraining model are being studied in the cognitive sciences every day. like the postmodernists. have responded to these and other difficulties by nihilistically refusing to attempt to construct correct representations of the thoughts that really lie behind others’ words. I believe there are better responses. to figure out what beliefs lie behind an act of verbal behavior. will be done better by knowing something about the types of cognitive structure that guide and constrain belief-formation. Some. – 68 – . of course. and the implicit theory held by many practitioners. even if a people’s mental states are too different from our mental states to ascribe content sentences to them in the usual way. Cognitive diversity beyond a certain point leaves us unable to label anything “the belief that p. I’ve argued that “thick description” which describes mental states in terms of their overall role in a cognitive economy. I’ve argued that a syntactic functional-role cognitive theory is even more able to adequately characterize mental states that are different from our own. I am not merely referring to large-scale physical activity. Uttering sounds is also behavior. I’ve tried to explain the root cause of these difficulties. interacting with each other in ways that are specified by general (universal) rules of mental interaction. gives us a way to characterize mental states. One can similarly use ideas of what general underlying mental structures must always be there (often organizing more culturally idiosyncratic information) to more adequately uncover which resulting mental states are the ones likely to be generating behavior at a given time. I’ve argued that our usual ways of doing this – using models of ourselves to infer that certain mental states are present. With thick description. and using intentional English-language characterizations to say what those are.

Anthropology. The idea that behavioral evidence. But understanding what others believe is certainly an important enough task to be worth exploring with more than our everyday tools. 3. Cognitive psychology can play a role in helping specify the general architecture of human cognition and the ways in which mental states tend to interact with one another. This use of “intentional” is different from its common usage as “on purpose. In other sciences. Notes 1. The nature of belief is such that we may never be sure we know what others are thinking and saying. indeterminate. can specify how. we could come much closer to what Clifford Geertz describes as the fundamental goal of studying others. Such approaches provide better strategies for uncovering behavior than raw behavioral and environmental strategies constrained only by self-based models. and desires. These – 69 – .” 2. in principle. a vast amount of specific information is used by this general cognitive architecture to enable people to perceive and think about the world in the ways that they do. some may protest that the sorts of problem described above are certainly not unique to belief ascription. with other researchers’ knowledge about the mind. shouldn’t other sciences be charged with regress or circularity? And scholars from Duhem to Quine to Kuhn have argued that all scientific posits rely on vast interconnected webs of knowledge. The failures of positivism has led many to be skeptical of finding firm epistemic foundations for any types of knowledge. in a given culture. This example is just a recasting of philosopher Willard Quine’s (1960) famous example. If translators would begin to more fully integrate their vast knowledge of other’s lifeways. At this point. then. along with disciplines like history. to converse with them” (1973: 13). Why. by itself. can never really confirm a particular belief ascription is a central idea in his celebrated claim that whether an alien’s cry of “Gavagai” in the presence of a rabbit really means “rabbit” or “undetached rabbit parts” is. making certain types of alteration in the auxiliary premises can enable a different “core” theory to account for the same observations as the previous theory. What we ultimately want from the peoples studied. Philosophers use the term “intentional” to refer to descriptions of utterances and actions that involving meanings.Translation and Belief Ascription Such an approach also puts us in a better position to adequately uncover the mental states underlying verbal and non-verbal behavior. writes Geertz. is “in the widened sense of the term in which it encompasses much more than talk. beliefs.

A consequence of holism is that making changes in the assumptions needed for verifying posits in one domain would require us to alter many well-established views in realms far afield. the auxiliaries used to make behavioral predictions here are never auxiliaries supported by direct observation – they are postulated auxiliary beliefs and desires. should social-scientific belief attribution be thought to be particularly bedeviled by underdetermination and the holistic nature of justification? There are several responses one might have to such worries. then suggested changes in our premises regarding telescopes would be regarded as changes that come at an unreasonably high price. and. For example. Another response is to say that the very holism that anti-foundationalists advocate is a feature that actually inhibits the possibility of having numerous alternative theoretical posits in some domains of science. rationally possible ones are not. This response of course can only agree with my worries about belief ascription. Claims that our beliefs about curved lenses were wrong might require us to say that we are wrong in our views about what microscopes show. Second. which could force changes in our views of the powers of lasers. If our previous views about lasers or micro-organisms are well supported by still other data.) It may be that at a given point in time.Todd Jones possibilities do not make other sciences especially difficult or undoable. It merely says other sciences have similar problems. Collins and Pinch 1985. Beliefs and desires are not the sort of thing that can be directly observed. making alterations in the auxiliaries and comparable alterations in the core theories in ways that produce alternative accounts for the same behavioral evidence can often be done without incurring the high costs one incurs in other sciences. Why. It might force us to change our views on the propagation of light. making numerous alterations in our assumptions about optics that balanced each other in a way that ensured our astronomical predictions remained the same would be very costly. First. consequently. about certain features of micro-organisms. One is to agree that all sciences are plagued by these sorts of underdetermination worries. Claims that we are wrong about this distance would require us to claim that our basic observations of telescopes or our beliefs about their powers are wrong. Bloor 1991). Many of these assumptions are well supported by direct observations of telescopes. claims about the distance between Mercury and Venus have relied on the correctness of numerous auxiliary assumptions about the nature of telescopes.g. only a single set of theoretical posits can satisfy all of the constraints that these mutually constraining theories impose on them. In the telescope example. Many anti-realist philosophers and sociologists take this line (e. because of the havoc such alterations would wreak in other realms that relied on our – 70 – . (See Laudan 1996 for a full articulation of the argument that while logically possible alterations are always available. then. This is not the situation we face when talking about belief claims.

I have termed Lutz’s work a “thick description” approach to explicating the meaning of alien terms because of its affinities with Clifford Geertz’s approach. Belief holism is a “within-theory” holism. D. pp. Cambridge. Cambridge. Changing our postulations about what other beliefs are present does not force us to deny any direct observations. J. – 71 – . on the other hand. 1983. pp. 269– 290.. Anderson. N. References Agar. 4. unlike in many natural science cases. Block. Keller (ed. C. Glassner. Cummins.” Social Psychology Quarterly 50. Oxford: Blackwell. Elsewhere (Jones 1997). M. Drugs and Crime. Collins. contrary to initial appearances. T. The Professional Stranger. 1983. 1987. M. and Pinch. Davies. Cambridge. Knowledge and Social Imagery. J. 1. 1964. In New Directions in Cognitive Anthropology. 1980. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1991. 1980. MA: MIT Press. Kids. 1985. But there is nothing irrational about making these changes. Johnson.Vol. making changes in the auxiliary and core beliefs in ways that keep the same observable predictions does not usually affect our knowledge of matters in other realms at all. Carpenter. or deny any of the postulates that other well-supported sciences rely on. H.Translation and Belief Ascription knowledge of optics. Colby. R. B. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. London: Academic Press. The Architecture of Cognition.). R. T. MA: Harvard University Press. 1995. and Stone. Here. and Loughlin. J. MA: MIT Press. B. “Children and Civility: Ceremonial Deviance and the Acquisition of Ritual Competence. In that work I also argued that. N. Ekvall. Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science. The Nature of Psychological Explanation. “Introduction: What is Functionalism?” In Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology. 312–321. Urbana. B. IL: University of Illinois Press. With belief ascription. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1985. 1980. Religious Observances in Tibet. B.. “Toward an Encyclopedic Ethnography for Use in ‘Intelligent’ Computer Programs”. Lexington MA: Lexington. Block (ed.). Cahill. Bloor. Mental Simulation: Evaluations and Applications. The only costs that are incurred come from forcing us to make changes in other postulated beliefs. the logically possible alterations are rationally possible alterations as well. Geertz’s work like Lutz’s has much in common with functionalrole cognitive approaches. S.

A. —— “Tom Swift and his Procedural Grandmother. 1973.Turowetz (eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press. “When the Mind Makes the World: An Explanation of the Use of Constructivist Ideas In Tibet. E. Pepinsky.” MA thesis. Field. Schaffir. Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgement. New York: Alfred Knopf. pp. New York: E. R. 201–217. Witchcraft. R.). MA: MIT Press. 1996. Beyond Positivism and Relativism. Laudan. Hollis.” Pragmatics and Cognition 5. 1985. Metaphors We Live By. pp. 1980. Cambridge. and Johnson. New York: Basic.” Erkenntnis 13(1). C. Coming of Age in Samoa. Unnatural Emotions. University of Illinois. H. M. New York: St. How Natives Think. L. R. 1980. pp. A. 131–162.” Africa 55. Lakoff. “Interpretation Psychologized.. 161– 185.” Mind and Language 4. Martin’s. Hutchins. Keesing.” Mind and Language 1.). M. 9–61. —— Nuer Religion. T. pp. 3–16. and Alternative Conceptual Schemes. Goldman. Lukes (eds. 1987. Hollis. Meaning of Meaning. M. pp. 1980. 1988. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Oxford: Clarendon. Lutz. Gordon. Heine. MA: MIT Press. Fodor. “A Sociologist on Police Patrol”. L. 1985. C. New York: Thomas Y. CO: Westview. B. 1956. “Folk Psychology as Simulation.Todd Jones Evans-Prichard. K. New York: Harcourt Brace. Cambridge. Word and Object. Culture and Inference. “Mental Representation. W. Dutton. Lévy-Bruhl. Argonauts of the Western Pacific.” Cognition 6. 1923. 1975. G. New York: Morrow. Mead.” In Rationality and relativism. pp. Boulder. 1989. Fat Syntax. “The Mountain People: Some Notes on the Ik of Northeastern Uganda. —— “Thick Description. NJ. E. and Ross. Stebbins and A. 149–180. M. P. 1961[1922]. Cambridge. L. 1978. 1960. 1980. 1986. H. —— Supplement to C. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. MA: Harvard University Press.: Prentice Hall. 158– 171. pp. Geertz. Richards. and S. Nisbett. 1977. 1926.” Journal of Anthropological Research 31. “The Social Construction of Reality. The Interpretation of Cultures. 1982. Oracles. Crowell. – 72 – . The Language of Thought. Englewood Cliffs. W. J. Jones. and Magic among the Azande. Ogden and I. Bronislaw. 1928. Malinowski. “Conventional Metaphors and Anthropological Metaphysics: The Problem of Cultural Translation. 1997. R. 1937. Quine. In Fieldwork Experience: Qualitative Aproaches to Social Research.

Humanistic Dilemmas: Translation in the Humanities and Social Sciences. “Cognitive Penetrability. – 73 – . at SUNY Binghamton. 1983. S. The Forest People. Cambridge. and Restricted Simulation. MA: Bradford. “Human Cognition in its Social Context. and Srull. S. C. The Violence of Translation. pp. or.” Mind and Language 12. L. “Translation as a Social Process.” Psychological Review 93.Translation and Belief Ascription Stich. Wyer. 1974. Cambridge. 1991. NY.” Paper presented at conference. S. 322–359. 1986. Rationality. 26–28 September. R. —— The Fragmentation of Reason. the Case Against Belief. 297–326. pp. From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science. Turnbull. Venuti. 1990. Stich. MA: Bradford. T. and Nichols. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1997.


My argument. Transformation: Skating “Glossando” on Thin Semiotic Ice Michael Silverstein In this chapter I engage the issue of how it is possible to “translate” materials of language. or even otherwise (en)textual(ized) objects in other media and modes. Transduction. We must therefore recognize that those semiotic partials of language that are cultural in various complex ways indicate different susceptibilities of purported “translation.–3 – Translation. whether word-sized fragments of denotational text (sometimes. At least in our own European ethnometapragmatic tradition. one that anchors the aspirations of bilingual dictionaries and so-called literal translations of expository prose documents. that is. composed of analytically separable partials of semiosis and hence of kinds of “meaning. The Narrowest Concept of “Translation” There is a slippery surface. But as we move semiotically in increments away from that core. and I conceptualize the gradations here in semiotic terms. I want to suggest. let alone quantitatively distinct conceptual sorts. which must be seen as cultural matter at least as much as – perhaps much more than – strictly denotational expression. not surprisingly. as isolated.” even though these interact in complex. that we might therefore label with distinct “t”terms.” Translation is always a process that begins and ends with textual objects. turns on constructing kinds and degrees of possibility for various aspects of language material. mistaken for grammatical forms!) or booklength verbal discourses. layered ways.”1 When and where language conforms most to traditional European ideological construals of it. if not slope. we increasingly are attempting to accomplish cross-linguistic/cross-cultural feats of qualitatively. there is indeed a core of actually translatable semiosis in language. which I propose here and hope to elucidate in this discussion. or “translation. across which one glissandos by attempting the feat of an intercultural ‘gloss’. For today we recognize that language is in some respects just like other cultural forms. so-called translation theory centers on the ideologically well-trod area of denotational – 75 – .

which we do accomplish somehow.4 we are in the area of “radical translation. The second step. and grammatical categories being combined in interesting structural ways in the (Saussurean) ‘sense’ of a word or expression. This means determining what are the implicit or immanent type-level formal distributional relations that map into structures of denotational differentiation. note. from well within the ideological focus on denotation. As Quine (1960: 28) would say. (This is. Look at where this landed Dorothy on her way to Oz. The following are involved. on which she would have been guided by structures of obligatory grammatical categories in each language concerned – “source” and “target” – as the building blocks of compositionality! Recall that Quine distinguishes the mere fact of doing a reasonable denotational translation across two arbitrary languages. what is principally meant by the natives when they claim for example that they are reading a “translation” of Saussure’s [1916] Cours de linguistique générale “from French into English. then we could provide systematic or theoretical justification for translating an arbitrary expression from one language to another.”) This ideological focus on denotational textuality – coherent language-as-used to represent states-of-affairs involving things-in-universes-of-reference – provides the benchmark as well as starting point for millennia of wishful as well as wistful theorizing about “translation” and its various (im)possibilities. But we can clarify Quine’s stricture by saying that if we could solve the problem of what Whorf (1956a [1940]: 214) called the “calibration” of linguistic systems. of course. it should be noted.2 The current fashion seems to be rather uninformed lamentations over impossibilities and headaches of one or another disconstrualist3 or identity-political sort (formulated. involves bringing another. logically speaking. very close by to our starting point in the comfortable confines of perfectly semantically compositional expressions. an ‘entextualization-in-context’ (see Silverstein and Urban 1996). who did not cleave to the Boasian yellow brick road. Even for “language” itself in this purely denotationalist imaginary. first.” taking an intercultural stab-at-it by in principle unsystematizable commonsense shortcuts. in effect constructing a framework of universal grammar in terms of denotational categories and their formal codings. in justifying the “translation” we might propose of some particular expression-token (even in the form of a word or expression) we are concerned with in a text we encounter on some occasion of discourse. then. though aching to get out). there are severe limits to how we can THEORETICALLY justify what we do as interlingual glossers. each such regularity of mapping being a grammatical category. The feat involves.Michael Silverstein language and its translatability into other such denotational languages. projecting justifiable grammatical categories immanent in the expression-type in the determinable “source” denotational code. from systematic or theoretical justification of it. “target” denotational code in by in essence proposing a comparison of denotational – 76 – .

Observe that constructing this bridge across languages can only be accomplished in grammatical-categorial space. So what. such categories are justifiable only to the extent that those of any one particular language come out of the universe of grammatical-categorial types in potentia that underlie all languages. even though. this is exactly what is accomplished whenever we implicitly manage to overcome the Quinean impedimenta in an at least retrospectively principled way. And in turn. which makes it an instance or token of an underlying or immanent lexical type. Transduction. Saussurean ‘sense’5 is a component of the “meaning” of any word or expression only by virtue of the fact of grammar. So the third aspect of simple denotational translation is to complete a triangulation. we can translate (note the directionality:) from one language (in)to another in various zones or regions of grammaticosemantic space. Put this way. one would claim.Translation. Transformation language-structure with denotational language-structure. it all sounds exceedingly complicated to implement. Why should this be so? Why. For example. and it is only success in this enterprise that permits us to locate approximate lexicalizations of languages in general one with respect to another. such ‘sense’s of any word or expression in any source and target languages are expressible as structured complexes of categories of communicable difference-of-denotation. we can note. under these assumptions.6 Hence. the English – 77 – . the point is to find a word or expression in the target language [a] that is centered on or headed by the most categorially encompassing lexicalization possible (from the grammatical categorial point of view) at the same time as [b] it is the narrowest differential one denotationally corresponding to its would-be counterpart in the source language. Then there are further considerations of how to narrow the target expression’s denotation (and total meaningfulness) to as precise a scope as can be managed. can we so guarantee? Because. From this it follows that to the extent all languages are indeed Saussurean systems. In respect of the properties of the source-language expression. comparing grammatically projectible expression-types in the source language with those in the target language so as to determine a fitting token expression in the target language suitable (on other semiotic grounds) to the translation-occasion. then. is it safe to assume about real translation? If the entire course of structural theorizing about the denotational use of language has validity – and my own (dare I assert?) professional scholarly opinion is that it does – then we can denotationally “translate” across languages to the extent that we follow these dictates: grammatically projectible words and expressions in denotational text in a source language can be given at least one closest-possible gloss in a target language modulo the grammatical-categorial systems (including lexical semantic categories with distributional correlates) of the two respective languages into which the words and expressions of the denotational texts (source and target) are resolved. reference to the structural possibilities of which is essential in translating.

if present.or second-person usage – 78 – . the situation puts the relationship in the denotational set of a distinctly lexicalized form.) And note that while a female also terms her actual or classificatory ‘father’ ngayu iraaya. Note. insofar as this constitutes part of the Saussurean ‘sense’. both of my father’s sister and my daughter as denoted for a male possessor are ngayu bamraanja. both that I refer to ‘my father’ as ngayu iraaya and that he so refers to me. does the Worora expression ngayu iraaya still serve. reciprocally also to any male’s first – and 2n+1st – ascending/descending generation patriclan male. is apparently coded in the variations of the Worora noun-stem. ‘anima[te]’cy. the grammatically construed possessor. ¨1: ‘generational difference of one [between relata]’ vs. further. whom we would expect to be referred to in English by the other person as my son. etc. as well as that of the actual head-noun stem. as my father or my son – not to speak of greater generational distances – even for a denotationally “male( )” possessor. matches the English term in certain categorial stipulations of the denotatum’s ‘human’ness. like those in any language. ‘count’ness. then. even though the actual Worora term is applied RECIPROCALLY by a man and his actual genitor. from our point of view. The Worora term. only in the case where the “xi”. similarly ‘my father’s father’s father’ and my ‘son’s son’s son’. though Worora ngayu iraaya codes an absolute generational value between its relata. that were we translating English my son. In first. in order to get the “proper” translation into English. that the respective English-language and Worora-language kinterminological “meanings” in their respective systems overlap in the ‘f( . we must introduce the specific sign. We can translate English (my) father with a term in another language. say Worora (northwestern Australia) (ngayu) iraaya. + or –. Note. (Hence it can be noted. these can be shown to be categories at least compatible with the differential (Saussurean) coding structures of the two linguistic systems. and ‘kfa(xi. Were one translating in the direction from Worora to English. though clearly the denotational range of the English term is only a subset – though.8 And this overlap. (¨1¨vs. evincing a kind of alternating-adjacent-generation agnatic denotational solidarity. in the move of “translation” preserving as much as possible of “sense”.7 among others. Observe then that the sex of each of the denotata. ‘male’ness. though not identity. of Saussurean “sense” allows the identification. part of a quasi-“Omaha-type” lexical set. Otherwise.Michael Silverstein kinship terms. to be sure.Yj)’. indexes someone of whom “male( )” is true. signed generational value between the denoted individuables. which is also the coding of the reciprocal relationship by which each of these two people in a ‘fasi’ – ‘brodau’ relationship would denote the other. exemplify a specialized semantic subset of inherently interpersonally relational status terms. And this. that associated with the possessive element. ‘ascending/descending generational difference of one [between relata]’). of the initial English term with the target Worora term in that particular direction. a structured subset – of the denotational range of the Worora one. )’ component by the difference of absolute vs.

. i. ‘thy/your’) or in vocative usage without explicit possessor.e. Transduction. whence the well-known “relative product” expressions such as John’s father’s sister’s husband’s cousin[’s . . ].e. parallel to (be) baker to [X]. This same relational property is most clearly seen in explicit natural language in such phenomena as the English predicating expressions of ascriptive status and “habitual agency. Outside of this condition. or habitual for. But the point is that in the directional task of translating in the denotational mode.9 It is important to see the translation task in terms of language forms in two languages that in very different ways code pieces of the denotational differentiations we can recognize as common to the two systems of lexicogrammatical structure.” (be) father to [X]. for ‘female’ possessor of ‘father’. along with only a small set of such grammatically coded relationalities. For example. cousin to – 79 – . i. (ngayu) iraaya / (ngayu) bamraanja. They will also have some specialized properties as statuscharacterizing terms usable to denote and even to refer to particular individuals. it is of course the individual in the role of speaker/sender of whom the sex is relevant to proper use of a noun stem – a “pragmatic” or indexical fact in the instance.10 Kinterms in any language will have much of the formal-distributional and associated sense properties of such Nouns of Agency ascribed to. Those conditions are that both of the two relata – one needs to remember that kinship terms are inherently possessed.. one can in principle determine what is a semanticogrammatically justifiable translation in the target language by appeal to the fact that denotational meanings are anchored by paradigms of categorial mappings in and across particular languages. Going back to our example of kinterm translation. which in fully nominalized form come out as [X]’s father / father of [X].Translation. i. under particular further conditions. that ‘father’s daughter’. and hence marginal to the ethnotheory of language with which we are thus far working. we know that in every language kinterms are a subset of status terms (certainly for denotata classifiable as ‘human’ and perhaps for other classes of ‘being’s as well). and for the reciprocal kinship relationship. Transformation (‘my/our’.. such as ‘part-whole’ constructions. The Saussurean ‘sense’ systems called grammars anchor words and expressions in a particular language in the universals of coding principles for all languages. Worora uses a lexical PAIR that codes the comparable denotational range. [X]’s baker (/ baker of [X]). they iterate possessor coding so as to create complex relational expressions that characterize a denotatum through a nested chain of two-place linkages. for example. Such terms characterize the status of a particular denotatum in terms of a two-place relational property with respect to membership in a social dyad. occur only in nominal coding constructions with explicit or semantically projectible possessor as well as head noun – are both ‘male’.. someone with respect to a benefactee/ recipient/addressee. English (my) father and (my) son comprise a lexical pair such that each codes a signed direction-of-relationship with respect to Worora (ngayu) iraaya.e.

In both cases. that can be made in any language from its simplex kinterminological lexemes. further. or co(n)textual. sometimes also loosely called a “semantic field. Thus. this centerpoint “shifts” as discursive eventrealtime moves on. The head will emerge from the closeness of fit of classes overlapping in denotational membership in the kinship universe in the respective languages.Michael Silverstein [John’s father’s sister’s husband]. noniteratively possessed simplex lexical form. because of the overlap of two respective typological classes of lexicalization in Worora and English. ‘distal-and-prior’ overlaid on standard (conceptual) intervals of duration-reckoning (here. information as denotational characterizations.11 These regularities of a specifically lexicosemantic (as opposed to grammaticosemantic more broadly) sort within a denotational domain serve further to anchor translatability. yesterday for example. there is. there is a lexical paradigm that codes a ‘distal-subsequent’ of this interval type as well (the lexical coding is tomorrow).12 In the first case.” in which there is a set of structural regularities of how certain classes of denotata within the theoretically infinite universe as so described can regularly be characterized by a single. Yet another pair of factors in ease-of-justification of “translation” in the usual sense is constituted by the lexicopragmatic and grammaticopragmatic regularities of languages. the event of communication is the DEFAULT CENTERPOINT from which ‘proximity’ is conceptualizable. – which have been investigated through various “genealogical methods. this means that ‘(egocentrically focused) kinship’ constitutes a DENOTATIONAL LEXICAL DOMAIN. Put otherwise. . etc. in our Worora-to-English translation example above. father. are the appropriate heads of the translation-expressions. This has constituted for sociocultural anthropologists the typology of kinship systems – Dakota. a phrasal construction day before [X] and day after [X] for each of the ‘distal’ terms that takes us to two days’ remove from the ‘proximal’ day – 80 – . . i. These two forms of what is generally called the DEICTIC (“pointing”) aspect of denotational language can be seen in English in such lexical pairings as today vs. the way that lexemes on the one hand and morphological and syntactic forms on the other code pragmatic. in that they provide guides to coding a source-language kinship expression with a target-language phrase built around an appropriate head lexeme. that is.and son-. Now it appears that this infinitely extensible “kinship universe” as so coded – through the magic of iterative possessive-phrase grammar – has a certain conceptual integrity when viewed through the lens of universals of lexicalization. ‘day’-intervals). whether by themselves or with (iterated) possessives. [“past”] (it) went. and such ‘Tense’-paradigm members as [“present”] (it) goes vs.e. note. the latter pair shows grammatical coding of the same pragmatic scheme to be applied by interlocutors to the locatability of validity-realms for predicated events.” “ethno-” and otherwise.. The first pair shows lexical coding of the pragmatic scheme of ‘proximal’ vs. Hawaiian. . Dravidian. cousin to [husband to [John’s father’s sister]].

not at issue here). All of these. to be sure – of the grammaticopragmatic category of First Person. From the point of view of language. On the comparative plane. are based on certain common schematic and structured understandings of communicative events and situations that are made the basis of denotational characterization of what is being communicated about. This is how we capture – 81 – . Here. we must leave the plane of grammar-and-lexicon – even in the hybrid mode it appears in deictic phenomena – in relation to text-in-co(n)text. these schemata are general and abstract. lexicon). Transduction. by contrast. the Person systems of which allow of calibration. among numerous others. Each one of these kinds of successful translation in the technical sense depends upon the way we can read text-in-co(n)text via systematic abstractions of structure that lie immanent in text-in-co(n)text insofar as anchored by the fact of grammar (and its dependent constitutive part. There are other kinds of meaning communicated by words and expressions in co(n)text. too. we can identify the presupposition that someone is inhabiting the communicative role of ‘sender’ or (loosely) ‘speaker’. Yet even the denotational value of words and expressions in co(n)text is a function of much more than grammar and lexicon. thus in effect using the schematic presumed to apply to the momentary communicative role-structure differentially to denote something. and constitute the baseline onto which culturespecific elaborations are laminated. for more specific intervals within the ‘nonpast’ such as to indicate futurity. So there seem to be certain recognizable DEICTIC DOMAINS where a certain overlap obtains across languages of what is indexically presupposed in-and-by the use of a token of a categorial form. Transformation presupposed for the communicative context. there is no morphological paradigm of the Tense category in English beyond the dichotomous “past” [= ‘distal-prior’] vs. Similarly. and therefore to the extent that these are systematic. generally known as culture. for example. however. Crosslinguistically. We move to the plane of principles of cotextuality and contextuality for words and expressions only as they occur in discursive realtime. deixis. ‘nonpast’ [=> (‘proximal’)13]. In the second case. shows various calibrational regularities when viewed in terms of lexical and morphosyntactic codings of form. so that in our example above we can justify our translation of Worora ngayu by English I/me/my (note the contrast of grammatical Case in English. as opposed to ‘receiver’ or (loosely) ‘hearer’/‘addressee’ as the focal notion – there are elaborations and extensions of it. There emerge certain typologies of categorial elaborateness of deictic systems like Tense or Person or Evidentiality. And similarly across all languages. for other Person-category forms. we get along in English grammatical form with modalizations such as (it) will go and other vernacular-register approximations such as (it) is going to go. there are distinct principles of meaningfulness that organize their systematicity. A First Person form differentially characterizes some ‘referent’ as the individual inhabiting this relational role at the moment of use of the form (alone or with others).Translation.

though indexically-based ones. universally. But. dialectic. By contrast. whether by being elements of more abstract sociolinguistic REGISTERS or by themselves having a distinct indexical loading that points to a particular location in society as their normatively authorizing site of use (who/to-whom/where/when/with-what-meaning). of course. Silverstein 1994 for examples). to recapitulate. actual imitation. therefore.or sub-lexical – 82 – .2 [1916: 101f. Indexical forms more generally simply point to their co(n)textual surround. denote by virtue of pointing to a context some aspect of the structure of which they presuppose.1. see Hinton et al. The most fundamental kind of iconism in language (sometimes loosely called “sound symbolism. The specific meanings of words-andexpressions as used are at least in part a function of this – as Jakobson (1981 [1960]: 18–21) termed it. or imagistic iconicity of lexical signal form to denoted object is. §I. Deictic forms. meaning co(n)text both as the form’s matrix of structuredness PRESUPPOSED and as its matrix of structuredness ENTAILED or CREATED – in effect. the significant emergent unitizations of which have internal cotextuality at hierarchically inclusive levels of structure as they unfold one with respect to another. they characterize some aspect of what is denoted in terms of that presupposed structure. direct “iconic” values of certain formal aspects of the signals of language are frequently understood as part of what is communicated by words and expressions in co(n)text (see Jakobson and Waugh 1979: chapter 4. Words and expressions have directly indexical RULES OF USE. performatively (Austin 1975 [1962]) summoned into being – in-and-by the very event of use of the particular form. and it is antithetical to the formal. distinctly marginal to denotation as such: it is always at least partly conventionalized in terms of the language-culture nexus in which a denotational system of words and expressions exists. through various culturally specific processes (and thereby possibly universal ones at a very different level of explanation). 1994) is the diagrammatic characteristic of what Jakobson identified as the “poetic” – read: cotextual – organization of ritual discourse into textual form.14 Words and expressions also are organized into textual structures.” focusing again on the denotational relation between a lexical form and some real-world object of denotation. rule-governed structuredness of grammar in its preponderant totality (whence Saussurean sense emerges). from Aristotle – “poetic” order of organization of discourse.Michael Silverstein the indexical and iconic modalities through which words and expressions are endowed with significances in their co(n)textual matrix. We must recognize that the greater part of the meaningfulness of words and expressions comes first from various directly indexical modalities of semiosis and second from complex. as Saussure long ago pointed out (in the Cours. they require some “translational” attention. above and beyond any Saussurean-anchored “translatable” concepts. Both of these kinds of indexical system are essentially part of the textin-co(n)text plane at which words and expressions are endowed with meaning. The quasi.]).

one that takes account of rather distinct semiotic properties. These indexical and iconic values of words and expressions in co(n)textualized texts constitute a distinct area of problems we must consider for the would-be translator. as discussed above.and pragmaticogrammatical organization of words and expressions in their cotextual and contextual surround. and other iconic tropes of classical poetics do seem to be realities of the meaningfulness of expressions for addressees in source languages that need attention in the translational process so that these realities are accommodated in the target-language textual equivalent. By this I mean a process of reorganizing the source semiotic organization (here. Hence. this additional. because they rely on a different approach to “translation” than the clearcut areas of Saussurean and deictic denotation. Transduction. in essence. one form of organized energy [e. (And let us stipulate for the time being that both source and target are. So the “translation”-relevant meaningfulness of words and expressions consists in the interaction of such modalities of semiosis together with the denotational modality anchored by Saussurean ‘sense’ and by deixis. we are. splutter and the like are classic chestnuts for the [spl-. . Once we get beyond the systematizable in this Saussurean respect. in the original problem. such as a hydroelectric generator.g.] initial sound-image – are indeed important to understand and “translationally” to capture as components of source-material expressions. Qualities of alliteration. . Here. splash.Translation. we anchor our understanding of the first kind of systematizable aspect of translation in the universal fact of (Saussurean) grammar and its consequences for semantico. in general outlines. multidimensionally “like.”) As was noted above. how these other kinds of semiotic system can be said to correspond across source and target texts – paralleling the Whorfian concept of grammaticosemantic “calibration” – is the focus of transductional relationships of words and expressions across languages. the gravitationally aided downstream and downward linear rush of water against turbine blades] is asymmetrically converted into another kind of energy at – 83 – . We should think seriously of the underlying metaphor of the energy transducer that I invoke. “Translation” as Transduction As folk of semiotic Wissenschaften. Transformation “ideophones” or “morpheme partials” that seem to associate sound imagistically with concepts – English splat. denotationally meaningful words and expressions of a source language occurring in co[n]text) by target expressions-in-co(n)text of another language presented through perhaps semiotically diverse modalities differently organized. in what I would term a kind of semiotic transduction. nonSaussurean semiosis always manifests in fundamentally indexical and iconic meaning processes (in the Peircean sense). assonance.

papa!. nevertheless. the two modes of mechanical energy are converted in a functionally regular way into another kind of energy altogether [e. of course with some slippage between the two systems of energy organization. (See. reflexively salient partial of what it precipitates. the ‘vocative’ forms that correspond to the Worora expression (ngayu) iraaya ‘(my) father’. dad!. etc. connected thus to the energy of the flowing water on turbine blades]. we have been trying to bring some conceptual order through a philosophically acute linguistic anthropology fashioned in recent years.g.)15 These non-Saussurean aspects of meaningfulness are bound up in discursive processes.” “inefficiencies. or their child’s. We are dealing with the non-Saussurean aspects of meaningfulness of words and expressions. pop!. Franklinian electric current of certain intensity (amperage). interlocutors draw on all of the various modalities of meaningfulness coded in relatively stable ways in sign form so as to produce that fragile something. for the first-ascending-generation forms. ira. In this transducer. Lee 1997. Parmentier 1997. driven by a certain force (voltage) against the forces of its conductors (resistance/conductance)].” “random contingent factors. the denotation-coding words and expressions into which the learnèd reconstruction of interlocution parses this complex semiotic activity turn out to be just a small. daddy!.g. from which derives each normal person’s “great name” (see Silverstein ms. the latter considered to be something of a Baby Talk Register16 word and thence a word ascribed to children’s Worora usage. much of what goes into connecting an actual source-language expression to a target-language one is like such a transduction of energy: for here we are dealing with the transduction of semiosis beyond what Saussurean sensesystematics informs us about. But which of these? We must note that Worora has another vocative. let us consider some of the effects of non-Saussurean semiotic partials of discursive activity starting from this usual starting point. To achieve text-structures-in-context. due to “friction.a). circular motion of a coil-in-a-magnetic-field gizmo around an axle with torque. for example. For example.Michael Silverstein an energetic transduction site [e.” and other tragedies of the laws of thermodynamics and of uncertainty. The point is. But inasmuch as theorizing “translation” has inordinately focused essentially upon this learnèd reconstruction. for instance. By contrast. There is the regularly formed “bare stem” form of vocative. Consider. all – 84 – . djidja in a pragmatic paradigm of indexical meaningfulness. harnessing at least some of it across energetic frameworks. people’s accounts of their. how to “translate” words and expressions from source language into target. a traditionally undertheorized wastebasket to which. interlocutors collaborating in multiple modalities to create text-structures-in-context over the course of realtime interaction. dada!. pre-fetal and active impregnation of their wouldbe father (social anthropological “genitor”) as his about-to-be-conceived child. that we might translate by any one of the denotationally appropriate English vocatives that correspond: father!.

Lucy 1992a: 65–71. These indexed presuppositions are associated with – 85 – . English [X] murder [Y] (with the simplex verb) means not merely the same as ‘[X] cause [Y] to die’ (with the grammatically constructed phrasal collocation). 1992b: 95–102. In any language. daddy. given a semanticogrammatical composite.Translation. for Worora djidja it would be the more Baby Talk types. Whorf 1956c [1945]: 99] collocation. Transduction. in the first instance. Transformation contain the formulaic utterance.18 but share the semantic meaning of the latter plus some indexed presuppositions in the realms of normative cultural knowledge. already illustrates a difference of translation/transduction ratio. We might. Grown men exchange the vocative “ira!” in Worora.” which always caused me to remark its inappropriateness in the American English system of vocative register sets. Of course. what underlies an intuitive ‘transduction’ of the source expression in the first language into some (organization of) target expression(s) of the second. cultural ones – to the compositional meaning of the seemingly isosemantic [= same-“sense”d. So as a function of different classes of words and expressions in a source text. “Djidja. These other factors comprise. then. it is the simplex lexical form that inevitably has a “meaning” that adds multiple pragmatic (indexical) and metapragmatic factors – in short. Hence. lacking any alternative forms in local Pidgin English. Lee 1997: 170–74. on the other. One tries to equate Worora and Anglo-American (at least) CULTURAL SYSTEMS OF VALUE that endow the register forms with indexical meaningfulness – capturing this way how both source expression and target expression point to appropriate contexts and create effective contexts in systems of use as verbally mediated social action. transducible in my English-language pragmatics as “dad!” or “pop!” (not “son!”) though. the ratio of “true” translation in our narrowed sense to at best systematic transduction will obviously vary. the mere fact that there might be paraphrases in a source language where one form is a grammatically conforming and compositional expression while its “synonym” is a grammatically classifiable lexical simplex. ngayueguwaligee!” ‘Daddy! It’s (precisely) me!’ – using the vocative in question. perhaps papa. that are the correct transductions from one system of indexical contextualization to another. “daddy.g. Thus. insofar as there is a distinction among the various English language forms. my grown Worora-speaking friends of the mid-1970s. dada. would alternate the only translation-equivalent they knew. in switching codes sometimes. e. and its denotationally closest (termed “synonymous”) correspondent expression in simplex lexical form. conceptualize something like a ratio of LINGUISTIC-STRUCTURALLY JUSTIFIABLE OR SYSTEMATIC ‘translation’ on the one hand to the various additional factors that go into giving an interlingual gloss.17 We know that various classes of words and expressions have particular complexities – besides the semanticogrammatical (Saussurean ‘sense’) structures and pragmaticogrammatical ones – that to different degrees play roles in their complete “meanings” (cf. Silverstein 1987). a fully productive syntactic collocation.

That is to say.e. notwithstanding being unexpressed in denotationally explicit code. much of what goes for the “translation” even of simplex words in a text of a language actually constitutes transduction of indexical systems invoked by token usage of the words in the source text. be “translated. Hence. after all. a word like murder-. (conscious) intentionality. what kinds of text in what kinds of context is this source-language term or expression characteristically used in? How practical.” i.. we can dispute the very possibility of systematic expressibility of the targeted performative effect of indexicals in some pragmatic metalanguage. Such source-text – 86 – . and similar attributes of humans projected onto the denotatum of X. etc. even were one able to “express. centrally those ways in which a language is part of ‘culture’ by virtue of the sociocultural contextualization – i. use of a token of which constitutes a type of act that indexes judgments of a culturally rich sort. semanticogrammatically conforming textual structure of the target language? Hence. REPRESENT. from an arbitrary source structure to some augmented. indexical of) an institutionalized social structure bears as part of its meaningfulness – of course this is every term. Is there a determinate way to use a corresponding word or expression in the target plus all the metapragmatic description that fills in the presupposed contextual invocations of the source word? Would this require a shadow apparatus of a cultural encyclopedia to answer such questions as. ultimately. denotationally centered approaches to “translation. really. which sociologically center or anchor “authorized” usage of the term murder in a larger cultural “division of linguistic labor” (Putnam 1975). the question is how. in translation. So the ratio is in fact doubly relative in this way.” For in dealing with performative efficacy. could we work them back into some target textual object in the – in principle – right way? This would be to preserve all of the properties of the original save for this transduction of semiosis. interval of ratios permissible as the translator’s wiggle-room – is a function of such properties in both source and target languages. as it turns out! To the degree such complexes of presupposition contribute particularly to the performative efficacy of textual use of words and expressions as social action they constitute the very limits of normal. Bakhtin (1981) long ago pointed out the essential dialogical or mimetic renvoi to such authorizing contexts that each (at least logically) “successive” usage of any word or expression so centered in (hence. – all of interest. such performative indexicalities. to formalizers in legal institutions. say. It is systematically relative to how transductional aspects of interlingual glossing depend on the pragmatic aspects of both languages. consider the textual appearance in an English source of.e..19 And can such performable effects.” then.Michael Silverstein (rational) agency. indexical presupposition and especially indexical entailment (performativity) – of the flow of language-in-use. as well as unmediated qualities of ‘caus[e]’al interaction by which X causes Y to die. is all this? The translation/transduction ratio – or.

So we try. of the semantic and the purely pragmatic. even if our forebears have not.” while Hemayan gadau shilwan! ‘may you give birth to a wandering [shilwan] ghost’ “is the very acme of profanity.. curses. though pragmatically neutral. Think of transducing obscenities. Harry Hoijer (1933: 135) reports that the Tonkawa20 curse Hemayan! ‘ghost’ is “a fairly mild oath. Transformation indexical values have to be reconstructed in indexical systems of another culture as these can be made relevant to shaping the target text to be doing effectively equivalent ‘functional’ work.e. We can understand these indexical values frequently in terms of describable social differentiations of kinds of actors who take various roles in sociocultural context. Sometimes we are tempted to assimilate such systematic transductions to the narrower ethnometapragmatic “translation” concept that everything must fit into target-language denotational code. So if the original source-language word or expression communicates such contextual information indexically. in fact.Translation. (Or we need as transducer an elaborate. Those contexts or those conceptual distinctions in a source usage are indexed in-and-by the use of certain words or expressions in particular events of communicative usage. you motherfucker!” or some such? Clearly. Worora iraaya.g. Transduction. Thus. performative) effect in Tonkawa. to translate a word laden with lots of indexical rules of use (e. We must resist this temptation. REGULARITIES across such (as we can term them) grammaticopragmatic systems – distinct from Saussurean grammar in analytic fact if not in the overt signal of words and expressions in text – we can understand that there is the possibility of a certain systematicity of transductions as well as of translations. imprecations. transduction. etc. in one pragmatic register of a source language into “equivalents” in a target language. frequently coinciding with roles in communication itself. like speaker–addressee–overhearer (audience). then to transduce – 87 – .. such description of context is metapragmatic. as makes our Quines quiver. both as conceptualization and as discourse.) To the extent to which there are. as well as of their meta-levels.” i. discussed above) with a whole denotational phrase (viz. man’s son) and be done with it.. the denotational literalness of the first generally play a small role in the choice of a proper or best “translation. supplementary textual apparatus – like notes – in effect to “explain” the pragmatic particulars that make the original text work so that the target text can also work in “like” ways for those who wish to encounter it. as valuated conceptual distinctions indexically invoked in-and-by the use of words and expressions in inhabited social-actional context. for example. because we better understand how even the simplest attempt at interlingual glossing is laden with ‘culture’ in a very specific way. In the nature of things.” Are these the equivalents of American English “Darn!” and “Eat me. son of a man. etc.. This move causes such conceptual confusion of the denoted and the indexed. just translating the denotational content does not seem to suggest the difference of original indexical (here.

further. the borrowed term is not so much translated as at best transduced modulo the very ethnographic text. driven by our own ideology of sloppy “translational” failure. As can be easily seen now. Geertz 1988). In this way. at least partially. So. Finding no easy and “meaning”-exhausting translation in our narrower sense. a comparable context in the target). mutatis mutandis. But perhaps because it is so difficult to avoid the blunder. we are always tempted simply to reproduce a phonologically adapted form of a “native” term in an otherwise target-language ethnographic text. to make of the author of such an ethnographic text the patron of the untranslated term/concept as his or her own. much as in the ideology of technical concept/term coinage rampant in scientific circles. there emerges at best an effective transduction of each such term an ethnographic author refuses to “translate. this makes the target-language ethnographic text the supervening ‘context’ (strictly speaking. we anthropologists seem easily to despair of the transductions necessary to deal ethnographically with key labels for cultural concepts. Every subsequent usage of the term-labeling-the-concept is a textual reference or Bakhtinian renvoi to the ethnographic text. and being wary of functionally distorting transduction.Michael Silverstein it into a target-language word or expression is to find a way to index something comparable in the way the resultant target text communicates to its intended receivers. Such co(n)text implicitly defines this now-borrowed foreign term or at least it provides in toto a chunk of something of a descriptive backing so the term can denote something for the reader who makes it to the end of the relevant prose. thus being indexically known by it and becoming a topos of disciplinary discourse. now interposed between source-language users of the term and target-language users of it. simply to use expressions that describe the context of use of a word or expression in the source language (rather than ones that index. Crapanzano 1986. mixes together many distinct semiotic levels and essentially transforms the source text-in-co(n)text. the attempt is to build the erstwhile indexical meaningfulness of source-language words and expressions used with certain effect in context into the purported “translation meaning. into an object of contemplation and characterization.22 Authorial begging of indulgence to suspend translation on grounds of “ineffability” may thus also be a discursive move to guarantee to said author the authority of having “been there” (see Clifford 1983.21 It tends. and because we do indeed have metapragmatic descriptive machinery for describing social context. note. In essence.” its ineffable source-language indexicalities replaced by the target-language indexicalities located in the ethnographic text that co(n)textualizes it. We must note that only rarely has the “untranslated” term undergone a transformation into an actual technical – 88 – .” By contrast. the contextually exhausting ‘cotext’) for the nowborrowed term. The ethnographic text becomes its secondary indexical origo for a substitutive system of indexical meanings.

(Observe that.. moreover. German Sie (: du) easily translating into Italian Lei (: tu) or Russian vy (: ty). Korean.Translation. Sundanese. indexical penumbra. So there is no easy solution to the problem posed by textual words and expressions requiring transduction. German uses a formally ‘third person plural’ denotational pronominal for “V”-ing someone. It rests on the fact that structurally comparable distinctions constitute the respective languages’ indexical machinery.” i. a speaker’s control of the higher reaches of the lexical – 89 – . even though the denotational (semanticogrammatical) categories along with which these indexical distinctions are signaled differ from language to language. Transduction. in strictly grammatical categorial terms. Here. Modulo this indexing of someone’s deference entitlement with respect to a speaker.) Much more common is the situation in which the transductional equivalents are not obvious: how does one capture the “tone. In every one of these systems. the “T/V” systems (Brown and Gilman 1960) of European languages transduce easily.” The words and expressions cluster around a limited number of denotational domains – thus never the whole lexicon – as used in certain kinds of grammatically parsable collocations.” for example!). Rather. the systems manifest themselves in elaborate pragmatic paradigms of what native users think of as gradiently alternate ways of denoting “the same thing. however. modulo transducible indexical values. This ease of indexical transduction is the exceptional case. etc. When there is an easy transduction of an indexical system of meaning from one language-culture to another. all that is at issue in “translating” is finding the proper lexical equivalents at the denotational plane (translation in the narrow sense). so as to be able to navigate a proper transduction from the source to the target. substitution of the proper sort can be easily accomplished. Javanese. But this is clearly only the case where the contextualizing indexical systems of how forms are used are more or less comparable across source and target – as in Whorf’s “Standard Average European” (1956b [1941]: 138) languages. Italian a formally ‘third person singular feminine’. of a word or expression in a source text by one in a target language used in a highly distinct culture? Clearly. Consider the famous “speech levels” of languages like Japanese. Transformation term or even popular catchword in a generation or two (think of how laypersons speak of American society’s “taboos. something on the order of a cultural analysis of both systems of usage is a prerequisite to finding a route of transduction. in analytic terms that reveal both the similarities and the differences. such a term has tended to remain an index of the particular ethnographer’s authority over the way we think of the culture whose term remains untranslated but instead revalued so as to index some ethnographic interpretative text.e.23 Traditionally they have operated in societies in which systems of stratificational rank of interlocutors and denoted others constitute the basis for gradated indexical acts of deference from one person (as speaker/ sender) to another (as addressee and/or referent). and Russian a ‘second person plural’. Tibetan. Hence.

though focused on pronominal usage. one can transduce a high Javanese term by an elaborate latinate. speaking “well” is speaking with an indexical renvoi – signaled by use of higher register – to having inhabited or inhabiting superordinate positions in important contexts of social action. though with fewer.g. there seem to be parallels across languages both of how people use the forms and of their contextualizing indexical values. Greco-Latin forms with complex morphological structure). in English. the registers created by the fact of standardization in SAE languages are at least partially implemented in ways parallel to the “speech-level” deference indexicals of the various Southeast Asian languages mentioned. it is the difference between relatively “formal” vs. In another order of indexical effects. indexes a range of contextual states of affairs. hence less subtly entextualizable. “(inter)personal/biographical” contexts of communication. moreover. In any of these language communities. “informal. One can transduce a “T” or “V” form usage in an SAE language by one of the several different – 90 – . Morford 1997). forms in the pragmatic paradigm.” and/or between relatively “impersonal/institutional” vs. line up as somewhat comparable in their total usage (see Agha 1994. even though all functions may not be associable with an equal diversity of comparable forms in moving from language-culture to language-culture. The latter registers are at least partially comparable in function to “T/V” systems of SAE languages. the stratification of registers is reflected in context-appropriate and context-entailing “stylistic” adjustments that speakers make.Michael Silverstein alternants indexes someone as well of considerable deference entitlement and/or a formal. Notwithstanding some fundamental differences in how these indexical variations are understood in local cultural terms. Thus. even though it does not have a pronominally focused “T/V” system. The point here is that across these cultural systems there are comparabilities we can recognize in the discursive facts catalogued above. it points to relatively high self-positioning of the speaker as well within the schemata of stratification made relevant to the situation. It allows a speaker to recognize the deference entitlement of an addressee as a contributing factor to these. all the while “saying the same thing” as one could in more prosaic register. But of course the SAE “T/V” systems. Using various technical. public occasion. Hence. centering as they do on honorification and indexical gestures of deference. and other highly valued functional alternants comprehended in standard (e. rather than monosyllabic term in English. both giving off something of the same indexical effect modulo their systems of cultural interpretation of such. euphemistic. Murphy 1988) does equivalent social indexing with paradigms of alternant personal names.24 Note. Hence. American English (Brown and Ford 1964[1961]. In one mode. that there exist systems of stratified registers of language use like that of American English or any other SAE language in a diverse but standardized language community.

So whether we see it pretheoretically as the problem of stylistically matching an original’s “tone” with a translated one. and we attempt to move across these. Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables “adapted” – “translated” – to the – 91 – . The Transformation of Cultural Meaning More than really translating material (in my narrowed sense). or we see it more theoretically as dealing with the limits of comparability of cultural indexicalities keyed by particular words and expressions. But this leads us to consider that in transduction. transducing material moves us between a source cultural system and a target one. In one sense. transduction constitutes a distinct problem area for “translation. operating as we do in the realm of culture more frankly. Recall the discussion above of “untranslated” cultural terms in ethnographies. On the basis of such. transformation can be considered to result from a kind of misfire of intent with respect to translation and transduction. a “translator” can attempt to induce in an addressee of the selected and deployed target-language form some understanding comparable to what an addressee of the source-language form would understand in the originary communication. Transformation ‘second person singular’ personal deictics in the various Southeast Asian systems.25 But in another sense. Finding comparabilities and overlaps in the way words and expressions do their culture-specific indexical work is a task eminently anthropological.” It is not to be confused with translation in our narrower usage. then. Doing so in the proper kind of framework of comparison allows us not to obliterate the very real differences in total cultural effect while recognizing parallelisms of how certain semiotic machinery – here. In each system words and expressions are indexically anchored within entextualizationsin-context. there is always the possibility of transformation of the [en]textual[ized] source material contextualized in specific ways into configurations of cultural semiosis of a sort substantially or completely different from those one has started with. inasmuch as it is comparison of cultural forms of social action. use of words and expressions – does abstractly similar communicative work. Transduction.Translation. one of many types of transformation of [en]text[ualization]s defined by the semiotic axes along which it happens. Scientifically unsystematic practices of generations of anthropologists-as-ethnographic-“translators” have turned source-language/culture material willy-nilly into signs of the structures of power and influence of the professional and scholarly worlds in which the discourse of ethnography is carried on as a central social practice. we can think of determinately intentional aesthetic genre transformation. as for example William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet becoming – being “translated” into – Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. It is the stuff of ever-evolving performance institutions in our own society’s cultural life. And so forth.

From the point of view of semiotic transformation now. These are wholesale exercises in transformation in our sense of the term. semiotic transformation then occurs. Gumlao? Edmund Leach. Of course. to give the ethnographic author a kind of “ownership” over the scholarly term from “one’s people.. indexically manifested cultural value) that emerges for imported source-language terms in anthropological and wider discursive usages. by hypothesis. to the degree that there – 92 – . become the trophies displayed (the ethnographic text being the pedestal) for those elected. The point is that the meaningfulness of the very terms that originate in some source language in source-culture usage has been transformed significantly in the target-language and especially target-cultural usage. one’s fame as it were: the professional descriptive backing associated with the use of the proper name of the author is. For the culture of anthropologists renders us members of the academic and other professional institutional orders and endows originary technical terms – among them. users (implicit “referencers” or explicit “citers”). This fits into the general scientific-scholarly notions of precedence of attributed or at least ascribed coinage for technical terminology of a field’s discourse – a sociocultural fact if ever there was one. we start. as noted. carrying forward this style of “nontranslational practice” in ethnographic genres becomes centrally involved in social reproduction of a disciplinary line or category through the establishment of a canonical text site. So the overall co(n)textual meaning of such a term has been profoundly transformed. Even trying to play it as safe as we can with the textual stuff with which.26 The point here is not to praise or condemn this other meaningfulness (that is. intendedly transduced so as to get their technical meaning from one’s target-language ethnographic text. the untranslated but cotextually transduced material. Part of this involves indexing identities and qualities of the terms’ creators (“discoverers”). in their own stratified discursive regimes. then. Sometimes there is no way sufficiently to systematize and limit the transduction of verbal material across functionally intersecting pragmatic systems. Kula? Bronislaw Malinowski. Because of the transformation of semiosis just described. If the effect is. complete with a durational interval of relevant half-life! But here the “coinages” are words from another language/culture.Michael Silverstein musical stage by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and associates. Thus can practitioners of identity creation and management within disciplinary and more popular circles learn how to institutionalize such transformations of value in a highly deliberate manner. in which the conceptual labels of other cultures. There is a kind of Hall of Fame principle organizing such a social system. then. exotic. the label for the ineffable concept. “untranslated” words and expressions from ethnographic loci – with special kinds of meaningfulness.” immediately this ownership becomes indexically convertible with one’s name. consider again the case of nontranslation of ethnographic words and expressions. etc.

since it misconstrues the vast gulf that exists – 93 – . Transformation is. and rendering a painting according to the scheme. these are at least in part transformations one of the other. I expect that for semiotic systems unlike human language. Hence. hence graspable “tropic” appearance. the very organization of pragmatic systems that are involved in the source situation of usage cannot be duplicated in the target situation. that translation and its more fluid – as opposed to gelid – extensions. of course.” as it were. For verbal. transformed material. I hope. Transformation is transduction beyond a translator’s intended limits. seems to occur as a risk (or license!) of starting from source entextualizations far from home that require radical reshaping in the “translational” attempt to domesticate them. and. then. the condition of emergence of meaning is textuality-in-context. emerging out of an [en]text[ualization]-in-context. Sometimes it is possible selectively to reshape an organization of them so that the target verbal material appears in texts of very different functional characteristics. as different. which thus operate without a true grammaticosemantic system of the Saussurean type to anchor them. Think for example of transforming a schema of moral values into a color code. the effects of trope-generating transformation come to play a role in any further stability of actual translation in our narrow sense – starting the cycle all over again! It is clear now. to the degree to which the source and target elements constitute parts of diagrammatic forms of each other in their respective cotexts. yielding a relationship of transformation of a certain localized. while remaining language. occur in a kind of nested set of relationships that emerge in the process of explicit interlingual glossing. the very condition of trope. rather than transduction or translation of it. a higher-order notion of “translation-prime” is in a sense suggested. So to the extent to which there is a concept of “tropic meaning” attached to the respective elements of source and target texts. as noted above.) Perhaps.Translation. can be put in correspondence with source material as IT occurs in [en]text[ualization]-in-context. the translation metaphor in these other realms – for that is what it is – does more harm than good. At the same time. as in so much of Renaissance painting. transformation of source material. The “translations” that result must perforce be shaped as discourse genres that license the effectiveness of target verbal forms in sociocultural ways highly different from the originary ones. as for other semiotic material. Think of allegorical embodiment of moral values. transduction and transformation play the unrecognized – or at least untheorized! – major role in what is sometimes loosely termed “translation.” (And of course this is true as well for all those aspects of text-in-context itself that are not conformingly Saussurean. Even when a token of a word appears printed on a page in an expository prose text and when a token of it appears printed on a page of concrete poetry. such as transduction and transformation. as musical “text” and painting-as-“text. we must remind ourselves. Transduction. there is always something of the transformational in every attempted translation! Usually.

in fact. (Even reading a – text-artifactual – book or looking at a – text-artifactual – painting are contingent acts that result. can be distinguished by the concentrated cultural lumpiness they embody as an important functional aspect – 94 – . are of the essence.” for example.” but by its indexical characteristics and related modalities of meaningfulness that interweave with Saussurean-based denotational form. of varying degrees of coherence. As well. The very forms of abstract language structure. and hence if we are to understand the nature of the three T’s. in some physical form and. it misplaces its interest at levels of abstraction and organization that are far from what can be “translated. text-artifacts. circulating.)27 And let us recall yet further critical points for “translation” within the domain of phenomenal language itself. even perdure. which exist. mediate the entextualization/contextualization process between two or more people. is available to us. And even within a cultural tradition. only the explicit mediating “stuff” of which. note. perhaps revealing the ineptness or just looseness of the metaphors invoked. the precipitated record of this is a text. culture penetrates into phenomenal language via indexicality and iconicity28 so that transduction and transformation. then. to the degree that something is communicated. we have to understand something of the nature of such textual objects in culture. In this sense. rather than translation. ideologically driven view of the continuous signals of denotational textuality is actually semiotically complex cultural material. insofar as most of their manifestations are in fact nonlinguistic.” “Cultures” as such cannot be (in our narrower sense) “translated. in the generation of at least one text in this sense. language use in entextualizing/contextualizing events is endowed with all the dialectically emergent creativity (technically. indexical entailments) of any such cultural semiosis. Not. As a form of social action. as contingencybound semiotic objects that arise as structures of informational or conceptual coherence in context. Wittgenstein or a Greek or Latin author in the Loeb Classical Library. for such parts of a text. Much of what looks like ‘language’ in a superficial. “under” – a culture. Such material is defined not by its Saussurean-centered “denotationality. we hardly treat a ballet (entextualization of tableaux of bodily movement) set to music (entextualization of pitches and tonal intensities in metered combination-and-sequence) in the same way as [= as homology of] how we treat a denotationally-centered “bilingual edition” of. For the critical and inevitable point about “translating cultures” is that at beginning and end of these processes we are dealing with textual objects experienceable and intelligible only within – or as the mathematicians would say. But it is with respect to texts that people mutually adjust one to another in realtime social interaction.Michael Silverstein between language and these other systems in the way of manifestation of semiotic capacities. say. We are speaking here of texts. things like linguistic forms and other traceable bodily signs.

of course. e. chronologically organized anthology of Venuti (2000). Here.Translation. and we now understand language to have a complex semiotic manifestation. . Thus. Not in and of itself a startling or new point. Literature that draws its sustenance mainly – never entirely – from the lower level. which can be transferred without loss into an alien linguistic medium. sometimes with astonishing adequacy.” for example. note the progression outward. Literature moves in language as a medium. Sapir’s ([1921] 1949: 221–31) discussion of “Language and Literature. and in the admirable. Gentzler 1993. If it moves in the upper rather than the lower level – a fair example is a lyric of Swinburne’s – it is as good as untranslatable. Transduction. The crisis – 95 – . denotationally focused ethnotheory – wherein at least one text must be construed – is a process that thus cannot but be INHERENTLY TRANSFORMING of any such cultural material in the source text that has indexically entailing potential realized in context. drawing on Benedetto Croce (1909. say a play of Shakespeare’s. . Notes 1. Nevertheless literature does get itself translated. and a specifically linguistic art that is not transferrable . Both types of literary expression may be great or mediocre. Transformation of their categorial differentiation. as it were. One can follow this in the historical accounts of twentieth-century translation theories. since we now understand culture in fact to be semiotic form. The very act of “translating” according to the intents of the usual. 21922). as translation theory has attempted to take account of the sociocultural nature of language in all its contextualized varieties.g. but that medium comprises two layers. is translatable without too great a loss of character. the latent content of language – our intuitive record of experience – and the particular conformation of a given language – the specific how of our record of experience. This brings up the question of whether in the art of literature there are not intertwined two distinct kinds or levels of art – a generalized. non-linguistic art. Such parts of language already inherently require different kinds of “translational” treatment. says that the latter is therefore perfectly right in saying that a work of literary art can never be translated. 2. from denotational textuality (and especially its lexicogrammatical underpinnings in language systems). my argument attempts to be more subtle both in respect of language form (Sapir’s “particular conformation of a given language”) and of cultural form (Sapir’s “latent content”).

31998). of course. A grammatically complex expression ‘C’ consisting of elements ‘A’ and ‘B’ is said to be semantically compositional if. construire ‘construe’. in European ethnolinguistic reflexivity. What I am terming ‘Saussurean sense’ is. 6. cf. This is the Boasian or Whorfian idea of the “calibration” of languages one with respect to another modulo a universal grammar or space of possible categorial systems (Silverstein 2000: 86–94).g.Michael Silverstein of finding the right semiotic aspect of language about which to anchor translational practice always seems to start from conflicts of “fidelity” that are. of compositional. Both Walter Benjamin (1923. 5. two pillars of translation studies. Silverstein 1993.[=A. Recent writers in translation studies (Venuti 2000: 331–488. which is only synthetically or constructively associable with any given sign-type (Saussure’s signifiant) after one has. predicate-argument notation with a given – 96 – 3. centered in the first instance on denotation. subscripts key individuable entities as indexed. English blue bird.” my English from the French déconstruire. the meaning of which modulo the grammar is a computable function of the meanings of the two simplex stems. Thus. the logic of the Praguean revolution in the study of phonology.[=B. in principle. 7. the functioning of sound systems in languages and in language. while bluebird. Capital letters in this rough-and-ready notation key the argument that becomes the apparent phrasal denotatum of the linguistic expression. cf. though we would now see them as proceeding from the semiotic complexity of textuality-in-context. déconstruction. we can regularly compute the meaning of C. Saussure’s “signified” (signifié). It is also. yellow. leading to the theory of ‘[distinctive] features’. the [building-] demolition image seems to have caught the fancy of generations of writers feeling themselves to have been liberated in their not. Bassnett and Trivedi 1999) are concerned with “identity” and “culture” in relation to translation. . but do not seem to have realized that the semiotic re-partialling of language/textuality itself is necessary to theorizing these matters in a more productive and systematic way. Venuti 2000: 15–25) and George Steiner (1975. 4. there is generally compositionality. cf. especially sensitive in postcolonial contexts. in English attributive constructions of modifying adjective preceding modified noun. an adjective] plus bird. Observe that denotationally speaking. a noun] yields a nominal expression [=C] yellow bird-. Alas. given the meanings of A and B plus the rule of construction by which A and B are joined to form C. illustrate the anxiety. Note the re-lexicalization by translating [!] with a view to the originary attack to counter the deep-rooted French – and other – school practice of “construing” a text as to form and determinate “meaning. done a complete grammaticosemantic analysis of the entire language system of which signifier and signified are correlative partials at the level of synchronic norm. e.

[X]. son of a man’. the more ‘complex’ the Saussurean ‘sense. such as [Y] (to) father. Transduction. ‘father. and now much abandoned field of “kinship and social organization” focused on lexical items that was once the mainstay of self-described “social” anthropology (comparative sociology of kin-based societies). . marking the identity of speaker and possessor!). son [man speaking]’. here used in the active intransitive implying a generic direct object [sc. 11. also. Anthropologists will recall the charming way that European native ideologies of reference pack all this into translations of the lexical heads of such grammatically complex expressions. impossible for me to review here the long.” or “. somewhat sad.’ coded in a phrase-type like [Y] bake. the second confusing grammatically construable possessor (the first occurring NP as in [NP’s NP]NP) with the individual inhabiting the speaker role in a vocative or equivalent use (which would in any case be accomplished with a special vocative form of stem [in Worora ira. such as “iraaya ‘father.Translation. “things”]. the X occurs as the ‘benefactee. 10.+ -(e)r’ or ‘bake. in areas of lexical semantics.for [X]. All this follows from the Saussurean assumptions of modern linguistic semantics. 9. from models that involve Boolean and other kinds of combinatorics (configurational “syntax”) of ‘sense’ elements themselves. Importantly. cf. if not formalized. and especially.[X] are derivative (denominal) forms meaning [Y] ‘to be(come) father/mother to/of’ [X]. . meaning-giving semiotic systems are neglected. – 97 – 8.” It is an object lesson in how bad theorizing emerges in anthropological work in realms of culture when language and other central. or theorized by bad analogies. here one with two arguments notated as ‘x’ and ‘Y’. . Observe that when used with the underlying verb bake-. djidja]. poorly theorized. Observe the proper relationship between Saussurean ‘sense’ and denotational range: the ‘simpler’ the Saussurean ‘sense’.’ The kinterms do not have such completely verbal constructions in a language like English. as also one of the major fields of play for “ethnoscience”/ “cognitive anthropology” and especially its notions of “componential analysis. suggesting a newly discovered antipodean parthenogenesis among Australian Aboriginal men. intimate register. This makes the denotatum of Y ‘[X]’s bake.. [Y] (to) mother. Transformation number of variables suggests a semantically n-place relational ‘sense’. or even altogether avoided in favor of identifying culture with a heap of simple word-and-“thing” mappings. the denominative transitive verbs. of course. The simplicity and complexity involve at least an intuitive. the greater the denotational range.+ -er to [X]. where they are lexical nouns. the forms in the text. understanding of atomicness of ‘sense’ elements and a compositional algebra in terms of which simplex and complex ‘senses’ are relatively definable.” the first of the glosses. if taken literally.’ the lesser or more specific the denotational range. It is.

16. complementary.) termed this the fundamentally “heteroglossic” nature of a language and of its linguistic community. – 98 – . the tendency of dichotomously opposed categorial values to be asymmetric. both in respect of thoroughgoing sociolinguistic differentiation such that the very use of certain pronunciations. A related fact is that the neutral-negative form of obligatory grammatical categories is thus also used where no specific value is communicated. in that one categorial form specifically communicates a denotational value. Putnam 1975. or indeed of someone else’s actually more originary production. In literary narrative. This approach early on converged with the Kripke–Putnam understanding of a “causal theory” of reference (see Griffiths 1997: 171–201.Michael Silverstein 12. Tense categories incorporate such secondary origines into their very morphological codings. and constantly maintain and renew this indexical value of words and expressions in (con)text. Baby Talk Register consists of forms that adults use in characterizing infants’ or young children’s usage.g. the other fails so to communicate [the socalled neutral meaning]. expressions indexes (in literary gesture. 13. and/or that adults actually use in addressing an infant or young child. the combination of primary origin-point with partially transposed secondary one from a narrated character’s point of view constitutes “indirect free style” of narration of “represented speech and thought. ‘conditional’) and relative (e. Schwartz 1977). Bakhtin (see for example 1981: 270ff. constitutes a renvoi to) some site of normatively originary discursive production.. This captures the essential insight of Jakobson’s (1971 [1939]: 211ff.g. Kripke 1972. and in pragmatic discursive context is generally used so as to “implicate” – suggest unless countered – the negative. Note that there are ways of constructing secondary deictic origins by describing (in language) the context in which such a situation is to be conceptualized. or polar-opposite denotational value. words. Elaborate sociolinguistic processes bring this into being. see Silverstein 1996.g. 15. Since instruction in discursive interaction is frequently given in Baby Talk Register. Complex (e. ‘pluperfect’). children sometimes do acquire these terms.) introduction of MARKEDNESS into lexicogrammatical analysis. The symbolization here is with an arrow to indicate ‘implicature’ (Grice 1989 [1967]: 24ff. 291ff. “timeless” truths expressed in English – where a Tense marking is obligatory on a finite clause verb – with a ‘nonpast’ [=> (‘present’)] inflectional form. though it subsumes these narrower worryings of the problem of referring and renders them generalizable and useful to the anthropologist and other student of sociocultural conceptualization. and Lee 1997: 277–320.) and a parenthetical presentation of the specific semantic content implicated by the ‘nonpast’ value of the category. e.” for which see especially Banfield 1993 [1978] and references there. 14.

Translation. 157–58. 185) and those close to him in the trend called “symbolic” and especially “interpretive” anthropology celebrate this substitutive transduction as the hermeneutic glory of anthropological accounts of other cultures’ concepts. delocutionarily. See Casagrande (1964 [1948]) for one of the early recognitions and treatments of this phenomenon. endearment. Ferguson and DeBose 1977). etc. like “main text” and “footnote. emblems of immaturity. In these structural formulae. (1983: 157) 17. to light up a whole way of going at the world. Transformation locutions. the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ represent Noun Phrases or their grammatical equivalents that can be substituted in the respective syntactic positions so as to project ‘Agentive’ readings for X and ‘Patientive’ readings for Y. when their meaning is unpacked. [The anthropological concern] tends to focus on key terms that seem. It argues that what we can hope at best to achieve in ethnography is a goal of transduction specifically of “key terms” of a culture to reco(n)textualization within a target-language – 99 – . also Dil 1971. cf. and can be found widely in contexts that. pronunciations. narrowed sense.” or “text” printed in many “typefaces” or similar diacritics. etc. For the time being let us not worry about the fact that in order to translate/ transduce a given expression in a unitary text in a source language it may be necessary to formulate more than one type of expression in the target language in some complex textual organization of partials.g. and the classic papers of Ferguson that developed the topic in both universal-typological terms and in terms of functional relations to other “simplified registers” (1964. in pragmatic metaphor. It thus replaces the traditional comparative and philological goal of translation of culture in my revised. e. The register’s lexical forms and even its other formal aspects frequently become. 21. talk between lovers. notwithstanding the unitary character of the original in its source language.and cultureindependent basic illocutionary act types fully parallel to the famous Berlin and Kay (1969) Basic Color Terms. 1977. of the register as a secondary process. 19. 20. 1971. See below on anthropological non-translation in these circumstances. cf. Jakobson 1962 [1959]. 18. An indigenous American language spoken by “an important and warlike tribe living in central Texas during most of the 18th and 19th centuries” (Hoijer 1933: ix). indexically summon up the affective qualities of speaking with/to children. In several places Geertz (1983: 10. Transduction. This constitutes Searle’s (1969: 30–33) problem of how to formulate determinate “illocutionary force indicating devices” [IFIDs] for each and every performatively consequential act of using any natural human language – which he stipulatively resolves by creating a set of language.

Michael Silverstein ethnographic text. The ethnographic text thus becomes interpolated (interpellated, too!) between at least the indexical value of the source-language word or expression and our ability to understand its conceptual value. Now much in the way of such “interpretive” ethnographic description consists of describing those very contexts in which the term occurs. So the ethnographic reader’s sense of the “meaning” of such a term, via this Geertzian “unpacking,” is at best (in the most elaborate and sensitive “unpackings”) its rules of illocutionary use, not, in fact, its original denotational meaning or its indexical characteristics! (See here Searle [1969: 136–41] on “the speech act fallacy” about the ‘meaning’ of words and expressions.) Hence, it would seem, merely the “thickness” of the transductional co(n)text provides the basis for and measure of the success of this attempt in place of “translation” or even our more narrowly drawn translation-with-transduction. Geertz and others have very much stressed the locally “unpacking” mission of interpretative ethnography, eschewing translation of the local into cross-culturally generalizing metapragmatic descriptors on the one hand or into other local terms in a natural target language. This angers scientistic types like Dan Sperber (1996: 32–59), who would hold up to anthropology as a “science of the social” the necessity to determine the latter by the former (eschewing transduction and transformation in our senses). 22. An “untranslated” term incorporated into the comparative and theoretical discourse of anthropology turns any textual occurrence of the originary form in some source language into a mere ethnographic instance once more, labeled by the (borrowed) term in question ultimately only as the prototype instance [think of taboo?] of the theoretical concept in question. Here, the originary word or expression takes its place as part of a translational set along with all other instances of such-and-so phenomenon in one or another society. By making such a move one does, in fact, reintroduce the task of having to translate the original term in our sense, by growing it a theoretical semantic meaning as well as an ethnographic-descriptive one. But note that the borrowed term in such comparative and theoretical discourse has a meaning different from those of either the source original or any target translation in any other natural language. 23. There are immense literatures on each one of these languages and their systems of stratified lexical registers, which are similar to each other as indexical systems in many interesting ways. The most semiotically astute treatments in modern terms are Errington’s (1988) of Javanese and Agha’s (1993, 1998) of Tibetan. See also Agha 1994 for an overview of these systems in the larger area of “honorification,” and Irvine 1995, 1998 for an analysis of the relation of cultural ideologies of honorification to the semiotics of how the indexical systems operate. – 100 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation 24. English essentially lost the inherited and comparable thou/ye system by the end of the seventeenth century; see Silverstein 1985: 242–51 and refs. there for the explanation of its final slide into desuetude. 25. A postmodernist “Translation Studies” would debunk any pretensions to systematic grounding of “translation” by showing how the enterprise always already involves necessary transformation, let alone transduction, not to mention that the transformations are in the direction of power over/through terms in the target regime of discourse. As one says qua scientist to “Science Studies,” so what? The point is not that there is not a route to complete intercultural translation in my narrow sense such that anything goes; the point is that there is some interlinguistic translation, and that there are plausible transductions as well. And that we should be doing them. 26. And of course the wider the electorate, and the longer the time elapsed, the greater the chance that the term has come to be used outside of the technicalprofessional discourse, winding up as a layperson’s word borrowed from language to language, like taboo – which then needs translation all over again when applied to understanding the culture of the place from which it came in the first place! (See n. 22 supra.) 27. One is reminded of the conceptual mischief done by Paul Ricoeur’s (1971) “model of the text,” unfortunately invoked by Clifford Geertz in very influential contexts, in its metaphorical misidentification of the textual object with acts of “inscription” of text-artifacts! While we do, in fact, create such textartifacts, e.g. manuscript or printed transcripts of oral-aural discursive interactions, the better to be able to study them analytically, given the frailties even of our own human cognitive processing, these artifacts and the way we produce them cannot be taken as a good starting point for the notion of how coherent meaningfulness is achieved in the realtime social events of communicating. 28. A point nicely spelled out some years ago in the lengthy essay, “The Symbol and its Relative Non-arbitrariness,” by Paul Friedrich (1979 [1975]); cf. also Friedrich 1986.

Agha, Asif. “Grammatical and Indexical Convention in Honorific Discourse.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 3, 1993, 131–63. —— “Honorification.” Annual Review of Anthropology 23, 1994, 277–302. —— “Stereotypes and Registers of Honorific Language.” Language in Society 27, 1998, 151–93. Austin, John L. How To Do Things With Words (2nd ed.). Urmson, J. O. and Marina Sbisà (eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1975 [1962]. – 101 –

Michael Silverstein Bakhtin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Michael Holquist (ed.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1981. Banfield, Ann. “Where Epistemology, Style, and Grammar Meet Literary History: The Development of Represented Speech and Thought.” In Reflexive Language: Reported Speech and Metapragmatics. John A. Lucy (ed.), pp. 339–64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993 [1978]. Bassnett, Susan and Trivedi, Harish (eds.). Post-colonial Translation: Theory and Practice. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. Berlin, Brent and Kay, Paul. Basic Color Terms:Their Universality and Evolution. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969. Brown, Roger and Ford, Marguerite. “Address in American English.” In Language in Culture and Society: A Reader in Linguistics and Anthropology. Dell Hymes (ed.), pp. 234–44. New York: Harper and Row, 1964 [1961]. Brown, Roger and Gilman, Albert. “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language. Thomas A. Sebeok (ed.), pp. 253–76. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1964 [1961]. Casagrande, Joseph B. “Comanche Baby Language.” In Language in Culture and Society: A Reader in Linguistics and Anthropology. Dell Hymes (ed.), pp. 245– 50. New York: Harper and Row, 1964 [1948]. Clifford, James. “On Ethnographic Authority.” Representations 1(2): 1983, pp. 118– 46. Crapanzano, Vincent. “Hermes’ Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description.” In Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (eds.), pp. 51–76. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986. Croce, Benedetto. Aesthetic As Science of Expression and General Linguistic. Trans. Douglas Ainslie. London: Macmillan & Co. 1909; 21922. Dil, Afia. “Bengali Baby Talk.” Word 27, 1971, 11–27. Errington, J. Joseph. Structure and Style in Javanese: A Semiotic View of Linguistic Etiquette. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988. Ferguson, Charles A. “Baby Talk in Six Languages.” The Ethnography of Communication. John J. Gumperz and Dell H. Hymes (eds.), pp. 103–14. American Anthropologist 66(6), part 2, 1964. —— “Absence of Copula and the Notion of Simplicity: A Study of Normal Speech, Baby Talk, Foreigner Talk, and Pidgins.” In Pidginization and Creolization of Languages: Proceedings . . . 1968. Dell Hymes (ed.0, pp. 141–50. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971. —— “Baby Talk as a Simplified Register.” In Talking to Children: Language Input and Acquisition. Catherine E. Snow and Charles A. Ferguson (eds.), pp. 209– 35. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. – 102 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation Ferguson, Charles A. and DeBose, Charles E. “Simplified Registers, Broken Language, and Pidginization.” In Pidgin and Creole Linguistics. Albert Valdman (ed.), pp. 99–125. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1977. Friedrich, Paul. “The Symbol and its Relative Non-arbitrariness.” In Language, Context, and the Imagination: Essays of Paul Friedrich. Anwar S. Dil (ed.), pp. 1–61. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1979 [1975]. —— The Language Parallax: Linguistic Relativism and Poetic Indeterminacy. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1986. Geertz, Clifford. Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology. New York: Basic, 1983. —— Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988. Gentzler, Edwin. Contemporary Translation Theories. London and New York: Routledge, 1993. Grice, H. Paul. “Logic and Conversation.” In Studies in the Way of Words, pp. 3– 143. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989 [1967]. Griffiths, Paul E. What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Hinton, Leanne, Nichols, Johanna, and Ohala, John J. “Introduction: Soundsymbolic Processes.” In Sound Symbolism, pp. 1–12. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Hoijer, Harry. Tonkawa, An Indian Language of Texas. Extract from Handbook of American Indian Languages, vol. 3. Franz Boas (ed.). (Separately paginated.) New York: Columbia University Press, 1933. Irvine, Judith T. “Honorification.” In Handbook of Pragmatics. Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Östman, Jan Blommaert, and Chris Bulcaen (eds.). S.v. Separately paginated, pp. 1–22. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1995. —— “Ideologies of Honorific Language.” In Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. Bambi B. Schieffelin, Kathryn A. Woolard, and Paul V. Kroskrity (eds.), pp. 51–67. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Jakobson, Roman “Why “Mama” and “Papa”?” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 1, Phonological Studies, pp. 538–45. The Hague: Mouton, 1962 [1960]. —— “Signe zéro.” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 2, Word and Language, pp. 211–19. The Hague: Mouton, 1971 [1939]. —— [Concluding statement:] “Linguistics and Poetics.” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 3, Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry. Stephen Rudy (ed.), pp. 18–51. The Hague: Mouton, 1981 [1960]. Jakobson, Roman and Waugh, Linda R. The Sound Shape of Language. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1979.

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Michael Silverstein Kripke, Saul A. “Naming and Necessity.” In Semantics of Natural Language. Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman (eds.), pp. 253–355. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1972. Lee, Benjamin. Talking Heads: Language, Metalanguage, and the Semiotics of Subjectivity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997. Lucy, John A. Grammatical Categories and Cognition: A Case Study of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1992a. —— Language Diversity and Thought: A Reformulation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992b. Morford, Janet H. “Social Indexicality in French Pronominal Address.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 7, 1997, 3–37. Murphy, Gregory L. “Personal Reference in English.” Language in Society 17, 1988, 317–49. Parmentier, Richard J. The Pragmatic Semiotics of Cultures. [Special Issue.] Semiotica 116(1), 1997. Putnam, Hilary. “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’.” In Philosophical Papers, vol. 2, Mind, Language, and Reality, pp. 215–71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975. Quine, Willard V. Word and Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960. Ricoeur, Paul V. “The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text.” In Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and Interpretation. John B. Thompson (trans. and ed.), pp. 197–221. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and Paris: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1981 [1971]. Sapir, Edward. Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1949 [1921]. Saussure, Ferdinand de. Cours de linguistique générale. Charles Bally and Albert Sèchehaye (eds.). Lausanne and Paris: Payot & Cie, 1916. Schwartz, Stephen P. (ed.). Naming, Necessity, and Natural Kinds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977. Searle, John R. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. Silverstein, Michael. “Language and the Culture of Gender: At the Intersection of Structure, Usage, and Ideology.” In Semiotic Mediation: Sociocultural and Psychological Perspectives. Elizabeth Mertz and Richard J. Parmentier (eds.), pp. 219–59. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1985. —— “Cognitive Implications of a Referential Hierarchy.” In Social and Functional Approaches to Language and Thought. Maya Hichman (ed.), pp. 125–64. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1987. —— “Of Nominatives and Datives: Universal Grammar from the Bottom up.” In Advances in Role and Reference Grammar. Robert D. Van Valin, Jr. (ed.), pp. 465–98. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1993. – 104 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation —— “Relative Motivation in Denotational and Indexical Sound Symbolism of Wasco-Wishram Chinookan.” In Sound Symbolism. Leanne Hinton, Johanna Nichols, and John J. Ohala (eds.), pp. 40–60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. —— “Indexical Order and the Dialectics of Sociolinguistic Life.” Symposium About Language and Society – Austin [SALSA] 3: 266–95. (=Texas Linguistic Forum, no. 36 [Austin, TX: University of Texas, Department of Linguistics]), 1996. —— “Whorfianism and the Linguistic Imagination of Nationality.” In Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities. Paul V. Kroskrity (ed.), pp. 85– 138. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2000. —— “Naming Sets among the Worora.” ms.a [1980]. Silverstein, Michael and Urban, Greg. “The Natural History of Discourse.” In Natural Histories of Discourse. Michael Silverstein & Greg Urban (eds.), pp. 1– 17. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Sperber, Dan. Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. Steiner, George. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1975. 3rd ed. 1998. Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). The Translation Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. Whorf, Benjamin Lee. “Science and Linguistics.” In Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. John B. Carroll (ed.), pp. 207– 19. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1956a [1940]. —— “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.” In LTR. pp. 134–59, 1956b [1941]. —— “Grammatical Categories.” In LTR, pp. 87–101. 1956c [1945].

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Part II Specific Applications .


translating local terms as though they had stable meanings is intellectually indigestible. we make translation the key metaphor of our reporting. and yet we know that translation. viewed pragmatically rather than referentially.– 4– The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable: Representations of Untranslatability in Ethnographic Discourse Michael Herzfeld Problems of Translation My title paraphrases Oscar Wilde’s memorable description of an English gentleman hunting a fox. so exotic. is not an affectation at all. It is. that we cannot really translate at all. deprecatingly suggest that the language of the other is so different. in this sense. yet we cannot dispense with it – any more than we could survive without reifying the categories of ordinary social life. the simple fact that. as John Leavitt (1996) has observed. Our descriptions. designed to illuminate how and for what the words are used. Whorfian extremists.) But what else can we do? – 109 – . This is a commonsense approach – but it fails to ask whose common sense is being invoked. like comparison in Evans-Pritchard’s famous adage. We write as though we deduced those intuitions from regularly occurring actions and contexts. We translate by declaring the terms untranslatable. But in fact this position. even those of us who believe that psychological inner states are neither attributable to whole populations nor even safely identifiable in individuals write our best ethnographic vignettes as though we could do both those things. if only by affectation. The act of translating terms-in-context is a useful fiction because it suggests that we can identify the meanings that social actors intend. rather. (Greek shepherds and peasants say much the same thing about knowing other people’s intentions. just as we do in our own everyday lives. without which ethnographic description would be impossible. And so the central paradox emerges: the plausibility of our accounts depends on a device that is itself predicated on an imaginative act of empathy with informants. We are all. and similarly keep guessing at them. We all engage in this fiction. is ultimately impossible. For most ethnographers.

by contrast. In an ethnography. In the case of ethnography. this charming conceit is at best an impracticable dream: imagine thousands of anthropologists all “set down” in the coral reefs of the Trobriands. And so the ethnographer. and their choice of key terms veers between expressions of modest uncertainty about the validity of their translations and implicit but unmistakable claims to epistemological authority. Their access to key data is through languages of which they have variably competent understandings. Instead of dealing with translations as devices of art for the purpose of releasing the text from its dependence on prior cultural knowledge. Crick 1976. engaged in a project that requires some degree of understanding of what translation entails. as a literary translator would do. the translation of local terms is an attempt. – 110 – . everything is at the level of collective representation because even highly individualistic acts are usually mentioned for the light they shed on communal values or on the scope of deviation.Michael Herzfeld Here I shall argue that the difficulty disappears if we treat ethnographic translation and literary translation as two different. The very choice of marginal communities – and sometimes of marginalized viewpoints within them (Steedly 1993: 31) – is often a strategic and methodological device with which to explore the very forces that decide what is marginal or central. willy-nilly. This has to do with the difference between ethnography and fiction at the most basic level. Following Gregory Bateson (1958: 1) and Michael Jackson (personal communication. There are those who view all anthropology as a form of translation. has to devise means of making the trip seem quite unnecessary – to be an authoritative guide to the reader. their discourse is littered with attempts at contextualization of the kind that would drive any lexicographer to despair. returned home and writing up. anthropologists are. Geertz 1973) or contest that characterization as expressing a hegemonic relationship with the world (Asad 1993). to specify cultural principles. ethnographic translations are attempts to explain the cultural knowledge that local actors bring to their interpretations of each other’s actions. I subscribe to the view that the major difference between these two representational genres concerns their management of psychological explicitness: a novelist usually backgrounds all the formal cultural principles that the ethnographer would want to spell out. My old mentor. if closely related. sometimes with contextual information that shows the extent and variety of observed variation. but does describe innermost thoughts (see Herzfeld 1997b: 23). once wrote that the purpose of a translation from the (ancient) Greek was achieved when the reader threw it away and began to learn the language of the original (1954). enterprises. Meanings are given as though they were largely constant and predictable. the late classicist Philip Vellacott. In this context. cited in Herzfeld 1997b: 24). however flawed. But whether they view ethnography as a practice of translation (Beidelman 1970.

it is never quite clear what “its” language really is. and second. much more significantly. the intractable problem of intentionality as this is related to etymological history. it is something of a test case for Asad’s gloomy dismissal of translation as the key to anthropological understanding: is the power of the dominant models of Hellas so great as to render our attempts to decipher the modern culture irretrievably Sisyphean? Or might it be that a determined appeal to Greek frameworks that do not hew to the official line could destabilize precisely those after-effects of Enlightenment intellectual despotism? Second. as I have primarily worked in various forms of modern Greek to date. I shall especially take advantage of the fact that. I shall approach this from two angles. A third point again concerns intentionality: if the Greeks themselves generally hold a skeptical view of the possibility of deciphering psychological inner states. First. I am dealing with a language with a richly documented past. as an ironic shadow for those who instead can still mimic its orotund pomposity. given the hegemonic construction of modern Greek identity under the shadow of foreign models of its ancient predecessors. Why Greece? The ethnography of Greece is extremely suggestive for our present discussion. yet it continues to appear as the discourse of the unfashionable political Right and. that of my reading of colleagues’ and predecessors’ attempts and that of my own difficulties as I moved among different genres. The “high register” of its diglossic pair. translation offers both the only logically available means of communicating Greek culture to outsiders and a guarantee that such communication will be severely limited. and in a related vein. its language enshrines many of the most piquant paradoxes of its dual role as incarnation of Hellas and orientalized land of unredeemable marginality.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable In this chapter. I shall try to deal especially with what I consider to be two central issues: first. The problem becomes especially intractable when what is to be translated is itself the language of intentionality and – 111 – . how far does the very idea of translation violate their own culturally routinized skepticism? This is a particularly delicate issue because. Indeed. the modern Greek language presents a particular set of epistemological issues for the critical ethnographer. If modern Greece holds up a looking-glass to the discipline that shares with it a history of elaborating the meaning of “the West” (Herzfeld 1987). the politics of translation (as well as transliteration). I propose to explore these issue by discussing the representation of “other meanings” in ethnographic description. in a country where one of the defenses against external hegemonies consists in arguing that the Greek language is impenetrable to foreigners. was officially abolished over two decades ago. katharevousa (see Ferguson 1959).

but neither can we literally know whether they do nor is it particularly relevant for normal social purposes. desexualized concept of “love” (cf. by etymological association. Just how important is this historical connection? On the one hand. as Austin (1971) demonstrated in respect of excuses. Since this view of faith undergirds the socially sanctioned reluctance to challenge the honesty of fellow-villagers yet whom one may not trust. it is inimical to questioning of any kind at all. If.Michael Herzfeld inner knowledge. This prepared me well for today’s constant. NT agape). Herzfeld 1997a: 119). They may believe. I may be the only non-Greek anthropologist to have endured a year of classes in strict katharevousa. Our recognition of this entailment is what makes anthropology today such a strong source of insight into the workings of cultural hegemony. however. far from being socially – 112 – . politically charged language play. is the uncontrolled sexual attraction that undermines the moral restraints and social decorum of formally arranged marriages. and Greece is. it is not necessary for a speaker to be consciously aware of language history for an excuse to be socially plausible: the aura of antiquity – what Austin called “trailing clouds of etymology” (1971: 99–100) – usually suffices. some elements of the classical and New Testament term pistis. the modern Greek version of New Testament “love” (MG aghapi. What are we to make of the fact that Greek “belief” thus looks further removed from – and certainly more resolutely social than – its classical and religious moorings than do ordinary English usages? Or is this perception simply the effect of a hegemony that claims both the classical and the Christian heritage for a West unprepared to grant equality to its orientalized client state in today’s Greece? These problems are compounded for us by the historical entailment of anthropology as a discipline in the Western project of world domination. and indeed its effects might be dissipated by too analytic an examination of their implicit claims. moreover. conceived in a world where what defines a Christian is inherited sinfulness rather than socially innocent sanctity (Campbell 1964: 326. this is in part because the English-language term preserves. those socially recognized as faithful in a religious sense do not depend on actual belief for this reputation. is taken to be incompatible with doubt (see Herzfeld 1997a: 123). Although Campbell translates pistevoume as “we believe” (1964: 323). here following doctrinal prescription. it is clear that this is a social representation and begs no questions about actual credence. On the other hand. the term “belief” cannot serve as a gloss on the collective psychological inner states of other peoples. as Needham (1972) has argued. Yet few anthropologists now working in Greece know classical tongue or New Testament Greek. an excellent vantage point for further exploration. with its further implications of a comprehensive. precisely because of its own ambiguous entailment in those processes. and helped me see that rhetoric. and almost none of the younger ones have experienced katharevousa as the living fossil it was thirty years ago. German lieben) (Needham 1972: 42). Indeed. since faith.

Heelas and Lock 1981. That this was not altogether wise perhaps first became apparent in kinship studies. but cf. ethnographers have elaborated a device derived from philology and history. But by that same token they also set a pattern that less well-informed successors came to accept uncritically in respect of the prevailing assumptions about meaning and translation. It is consistent with the detailed logical critique advanced by Rodney Needham (1972. Rosen 1995). these first ethnographies (Campbell 1964. too. while Ernestine Friedl was accompanied by her classicist husband. I came to believe that any description of social structure and cultural form would be incomplete without due recognition of this quality. provide us with rich details that – as in all good ethnography. it allows a kind of shorthand referentiality: the reader is first educated into the significance of the term by “seeing” it used in a set of diagnostic contexts. and that the author can reliably interpret native speakers’ intentions. The consequences of this move conflict with one of anthropologists’ commonest assumptions: that the personal intentions behind declarations of affect or motive are opaque. John Campbell also knew the classical language before he went into the field. and here the problems become more serious. so that all the anthropologist can do is to record the representations of such inner states and observe people’s reactions. This seems to be the basic assumption made by the editors of the three major collections of ethnographic approaches to sentiment and psychology (Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990. Of the first two major English-speaking ethnographers of Greece. I suggest – ultimately allow us to view the translation of purely linguistic elements from a relatively pragmatic and grounded perspective. when it was discovered that informants were disobligingly apt to use terms in ways that were not predicted by “the kinship terminology” (see especially Karp 1978). one that many Greeks themselves explicitly described. Both writers. Thus. The purpose of providing original terms is a double one.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable epiphenomenal. that the author is watching out for possible misinterpretations. Rather than playing a deliberate game of deception. Friedl 1962) constitute sites of linguistically well-informed analysis. On the other hand. where the semantic instability of brief encounters is rarely a serious issue. could be constitutive of social relations. necessitating a re-examination of how they translated certain terms. Many anthropologists provide glossaries of key terms or insert such terms with one-on-one translations in the main texts of their ethnographies. Cohen – 113 – . albeit in very different ways. the recurrence of foreign words serves to remind the reader that no translation is ever perfect. Analogously. the idea that economic categories would permit the conflation of local practices with national legal norms has obscured the long-standing resistance to the institution of the dowry in precisely those communities where this stereotypically “traditional Greek custom” has been most vividly present. the late Harry Levy. On the one hand. after which its appearance in the text is routinized and assumed to be semantically stable.

trying to learn something from.” Such a theory may not recognize or privilege intentionality at all. And translation depends on a recognition of that commonality. conflates semantics (“this word means X”) with social importance (“that action doesn’t mean anything”) (e. in other cultural settings.g.Michael Herzfeld 1994.” which they indicate by their discussions of the concept of simasia. But it potentially sidesteps an important issue. I am not ignoring the fact that they “conflate” semantic and social meaning. . 1997a). whether or not they agree about its significance. But the separation of meaning from context is grounded in a cosmology that. in a lucid statement that captures the pragmatic necessities entailed in the task of translation. That position makes perfectly good sense in the context of an academic world that seeks forms of pure reference. Meaning implies intention. Ethnographers are social actors too. and one basis of their intersubjective relationship with their informants lies in the similarity of the translational tasks in which both are continually involved. I am. . Just 1987). with its underlying “folk theory. I also remain unimpressed by the argument that these shepherds have taken the term simasia from formal (and partly katharevousa) discourse: their ability to use simasia for a very different understanding of meaning than that of the learned writers from whom they may indeed have indirectly – 114 – . then at least social actors agree on the existence of something subjective. but knowing what it does entail should help us understand how the absence of any such recognition can coexist with actions that appear to presuppose intentions and motives – the attribution of venality by people who claim one can never read others’ minds is a case in point. any more than they should regard the stories themselves as unmediated and disinterested accounts of ‘real’ experience” (1993: 37). and it is a fair reflection of many folk theories as well. from their perspective. and about. we should really be asking what the speaker “meant” – that is. fractured though its image must be through the uneven glass of our instruments of perception and reproduction: as Mary Steedly writes of her translations of her informants’ narratives. makes very little sense. when I interpret Cretan shepherds as having a “theory of meaning. For if inner life can be represented. this striking difference from both our own referentialist assumptions and those of the Greek bureaucratic state (see Herzfeld 1985a. To what extent should we isolate semantics from other kinds of meaning? There are those who would prefer to separate the two kinds of meaning (which I am presenting here as fundamentally of a single kind) in the same way that they object to the identification of a local theory of meaning that. Thus. Only the compiler of a socially decontextualized lexicography could entertain the possibility of meanings divorced from actors’ intentions. “readers should not mistake these representations of others’ speech for the actual presence of other voices . when we ask what a word means. intended – by it. We would do well to pay close attention to ordinary-language usage here. Leavitt 1996). That subjectivity is always “about” something collectively presumed to exist (Jackson 1996: 29). instead.

The stated theory may be at odds with actual practice. Even for Evans-Pritchard the charge is partial. (These shepherds are adepts at turning the mechanisms of state against officialdom. we can rely on the constancy of that meaning wherever it appears – and. It occludes the possibility of intentions other than those sanctioned by the official semantics – or. as Fabian (1983) in particular acknowledges. confuses performance with intent. it is the apparent transparency of official-sounding words in everyday speech that makes ethnographic translation such an interesting issue. cf. One may declare that it is impossible to read another’s mind. and my. by extension. perhaps most notably. Fabian 1983: 41). at the same time. in a well-known essay on the relevance of history to anthropology (Evans-Pritchard 1962: 46–65). however. but one can also. But Evans-Pritchard still frames his account as though the larger context of power were secondary. A word of caution is in order. For it suggests that if we know what a word or phrase means (as opposed to what So-and-so means by it). the possibility of a total absence of conscious intention altogether. since the British scholar addressed questions of historicity both within his ethnographic writing and. even if contextualized. although his selfdeprecation does at least enable us to extract a clear sense of how the unequal terms – 115 – . sense of the limits of referentiality. Although few classicists today take a narrowly referential view of meaning. This harmonizes with the nationalist image of a classical culture that has undergone frequent distortions but that will be fully reconstituted today – a premise few Greeks seem to accept! The use of transliteration systems that recall the classical alphabet reinforces that referential illusion and lends ethnographic texts a spurious semantic stability. on the referential meaning of “statements. as this might be taken to mean that the early ethnographers of Greece were guilty of the ahistoricism of which Evans-Pritchard has been accused (see Rosaldo 1986: 93. fixed in time as well as form. But let me return briefly to intentionality here. Indeed. as when they make police officers eat the meat the shepherds have just stolen and then inform their guests that the latter have just consumed the evidence!) Indeed. or at least make attributions of motive that suggest that possibility. try to read it. they deal with texts for which there is usually assumed to be an original version (Urtext). indeed.” as opposed to their performative force (whether intended or not) – an insight central to Austin’s entire philosophy. all this shows that claims about intentions are key elements of social performance even when generalizations about intentionality seem to preclude the very possibility.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable borrowed the term itself supports their. and the theory informing the practice may entail a rejection of the stated principles. Thus the use of standardized translations and a classical mode of transliteration obliterates the play of actors’ perhaps quite divergent intentions in favor of structural unity and images of social stability and equilibrium. The assumption of referentiality has particular resonances in the Greek context. A referential representation of meaning. This is where a referential view of language especially fails.

while Friedl (1962: 106). which foreigners saw as corrupted by Turkish and Slavic influence and as evidence that the Greek people – 116 – . and that those who lacked this knowledge would probably not care. now made obedient to its modern descendants – the western Europeans – who had. a historian as well as an anthropologist. and it suited her insistence that she did not want to deal with the classical past except. briefly (1962: 106). Perhaps in part because of the symbolic importance of Greece in the constellation of European history. For many Greeks the links with the ancient past. 307). old habits die hard. But it may have overdetermined some subsequent readings of his work. to mention the villagers’ awareness of it – her book is significantly subtitled A Village in Modern Greece – but it meant sacrificing the etymological sensibility of Campbell’s writings. notes that the inhabitants of the village where she worked had learned to invoke classical mythology as a keystone for their national identity. I have dwelt on the issue of transliteration at some length because the politics of transliteration often gets short shrift in discussions of ethnographic representation. Nonetheless. Leach 1961). It would have made little sense to do fieldwork in even the most illiterate Greek community – and the Sarakatsani perhaps qualified for that title – without the regard that Campbell. Friedl (1962) adopts a modern phonemic transcription method – a device that was not followed by most subsequent writers on the ethnography of Greece for some twenty years or more thereafter. both Campbell and Friedl were acutely aware from the start that they were operating in a cultural space where history was the object of an intense political struggle over the definition of the past. and because in the Greek cases we have one of the ideologically most sensitive fields for considering the issue. paid to their sense of the past and its relationship to encompassing geopolitical struggles that still continue. in a paradox reminiscent of many origin myths (see Drummond 1981. transliteration sets a key for knowledgeable readers’ response to the translations that accompany it. Moreover. and rarely notes evidence that certain terms were almost certainly reintroductions via the standardized national language.Michael Herzfeld on which he confronted the Nuer affected both his methods and the results he obtained by them. Campbell’s approach was appropriate in a context when he could safely assume that many educated readers had enough ancient Greek to make the national alphabet the appropriate medium. Friedl’s method was perhaps ideologically more neutral. Campbell opted for using the Greek alphabet. more passively. together given it birth and assured its survival under conditions of constant surveillance. Modern Greece was fundamentally a land created as a reincarnation of ancient Hellas. Campbell pays particular attention to the nationalist arguments over the origins of transhumant groups in the region (1964: 1–6) and documents shepherds’ awareness of their antecedents in the War of Independence and the way they learn this awareness in their childhood (1964: 2–3. however.

It is all the more remarkable.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable belonged to the European past rather than the present. Words at the Wedding: Sarakatsan Agonism Campbell’s description of wedding practices remains unmatched. I shall now examine some of the translations encountered in Campbell’s and Friedl’s work. Campbell found Romanian claims on the Sarakatsani and their territories absurd because they were based on bad philology and bad historical method. although she recognizes points of language that have subsequently become highly important in the confrontation between social anthropology and Greek nationalist historiography – notably. Friedl. and will conclude with some examples from my own attempts to grapple with these issues across a wide spectrum ranging from Cretan shepherds to a cosmopolitan if traditionalizing novelist – whose work poses special challenges for potential choices between “literary” and “literal” (or “ethnographic”) translations. had not yet occurred. cf. and there was little discussion of issues that the rise of sociolinguistics in the same decade was to invest with central importance. Karakasidou 1997). in general terms. When he wrote. Thus the politics of language choice – including questions of transliteration – was also a politics of temporality and cultural identity. too. which removed one of its most visible but phonetically least justified resemblances with ancient Greek. the “monotonic” reform of Greek. were their sole inalienable lien on modernity. turning thereafter in much the same vein to some more recent studies. actually seems more innocent of the ideological issues. When he did his fieldwork. – 117 – . the choices made by ethnographers could not but be ideologically fraught. the Sarakatsani still engaged in highly ritualized enactments of the mutual hostility that normatively governed relations between the two groups being affinally conjoined. as some of his successors chose. These early ethnographers were. faithful to the philhellenic vision. whose ethnography was written for a less specialist audience in a country where a much smaller percentage of her readership could be expected to decipher the Greek alphabet. Under these circumstances. and that was now supposed to dissolve – leaving only a suggestive residue – in the goodwill created by the new relationship. apparently because their relative lack of engagement in the public sphere sheltered them to some extent from knowledge of official changes (1962: 7. that he provided the detailed assessment of shifting contexts that we encounter in his ethnography despite the lingering flavor of a classicizing philology. he did not have to deal with similar problems in Greek historiography as he probably would have been forced to do had he decided. under these conditions. to deal instead with non-Greek-speaking minority groups in Greece. that women tended to use the Turkish names of local communities that had been given Greek names by the state authorities.

conventional greetings shared by the two groups of new affines. and is embedded in a detailed account of the ideology whereby marriage provides the balance against the atomized. It would not have required much literacy. He notes the terms for the affinal relationship itself. the term for the five young men who ride ahead of the groom’s party that goes to claim the bride from her parents. It is interesting.” uttered in anticipation of the bride’s “return” visit. when a rainstorm breaks out. the decay of the diglossic structure of Greek – hastened by its association with the military regime of 1967–74 – resulted in a “mixed” idiom spoken more or less by all Greeks. “return” – may be relatively recent importations from official language. With the exception of the song. He does not provide the original of the phrase “We shall wait for you. and he gives the text of the song of praise in a footnote. which uses generic Epirot dialect forms. all the other terms are in standard Greek.Michael Herzfeld There is a pattern of such transformations of negative into positive affect (or at least reciprocity) in Greek society generally. even in the late 1950s. agonistic quality of most social relations in this society. By thus conjoining a description of ritual form with an explanation of Sarakatsan ideas about the quality of social relationships. Campbell offers us a way of making sense of a society in which aggressive overtures may be a prelude to violence but may also be a means of creating mutual respect and alliance. In this description. Their obvious association with the learnèd elite enhanced their local prestige within the local community while bringing it more firmly within the state’s cultural embrace. a song in which the groom’s kin declare their good intentions and their admiration for the hospitality they have received from the bride’s natal family. and the term for a married couple (1964: 132–138). which set the model for my own explorations of the ways in which reciprocal animal-theft led to alliances between shepherds. the act of “return” (the bride’s first visit to her natal home with her new husband and his close male kin). did not accept the idealized picture that accompanied such formalism – as we see in his detailed descriptions of social tension (for example. first of all. In accordance with Ferguson’s (1959) model. to note which of the terms Campbell chose to translate are given in Greek. for a Sarakatsan shepherd to absorb formal phrases from the radio or even from someone with a smattering of grade-school education. he inserts relatively few Greek expressions. and some – notably epistrofi. a formulaic expression in which the bride’s male kin ritualistically object to the groom’s kinsmen’s first attempt to take the trousseau away with them. Campbell’s description. causing the bride’s party to – 118 – . This mixture of terms establishes early on the absurdity of treating local and official usage as hermetically discrete entities. a ritual exchange object (the special loaf of bread known as the “bread of the bride”). is methodical in its description of the ritualized stages of this process. as a sensitive ethnographer. Campbell. All the other terms I have mentioned here are given in Greek.

It can hardly be coincidental that this phrase. as with the phrase indexing “in-law trouble. The phrase breaks the otherwise unruffled surface of formality on the one side and bucolic innocence (portrayed in the song) on the other.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable demand her immediate return home while the groom’s party responded with a fusillade and the irate response that it would be unlucky for the bride even to look round at her parents’ home). But he does not spell this out.” to avoid an actual – 119 – . That such events are common is clear from his description. that marks dissent in a society that generally does not display to outsiders anything that might redound to its collective discredit. and a reader who knew no Greek would only get part of the picture. a strong sense of the play of formality and adventurism that is so characteristic of these rather rebellious citizens of a bureaucratic state that in turn treats them with considerable disregard. yet it often implies a degree of physical violence (or at least the potential for it) that is not revealed by the gloss. so redolent of what Campbell identifies as the fundamentally agonistic quality of Sarakatsan life. and its arrival on the scene created. especially of the extent to which bystanders are usually “uncharitably amused” by such intimations of discord (1964: 137). apparently a commonly heard one. Such descriptions show that even the most formal norms and cosmological precepts are elements in a complex process of negotiation. when Campbell describes the interactions between shepherds and educated Greeks. as it did elsewhere. At the time when he was writing there had been very little sociolinguistic work of any sort on Greece. emphasizing both the unequal use of “pronouns of power and solidarity” (Brown and Gilman 1960) and the political and economic inequalities that these asymmetrical usages index.” Doubtless for the purposes of his ethnography this seemed sufficient. what I have said about Campbell’s use of Greek in this passage applies to the whole book. a division of labor that was ultimately harmful to the study of both society and language. For it entrenched the idea that language use was epiphenomenal – whether to social relations or to our knowledge of “the language” – and so obscured the role of linguistic politics and ideologies in the management of everyday relationships. The one Greek phrase that Campbell reports from the less prepossessing side of social relations is the phrase for “the affines have got into a fight. one of the most central segments of his book. With only minor variations. More often than not his invocation of local phrases allows him. and this ethnographic illumination thus effectively counterbalances the formality suggested by Campbell’s choice of translated words and phrases as significant.” which he simply paraphrases in English as “in-law trouble. erupts into the text as one irrepressible local voice. Campbell’s awareness of the history of the Greek language and his own delicate sense of nuance allowed him to preserve in this. Indeed. he allows us to see how the choice of linguistic forms actually helps to determine or perpetuate the quality of social relations.

they illuminate the complex relations between state and ecclesiastic authorities and their ideologically loyal but pragmatically insubordinate followers in ways that help us to understand the dynamics of superficially less “exotic” segments of the overall population. Campbell did not so much “translate” the term ipokhreosi into the relatively colorless “obligation” as show how it served to link unstable vertical alliances with politicians to the internal theodicy of Sarakatsan society. The Sarakatsani had no choice but to engage with the ecclesiastical as well as the temporal authorities. 1956) than it did that of Peristiany. as a displacement of male humiliation. as some have done (but see Gilmore 1990: 25 for a more nuanced view). In some ways the notion of obligation is more central to the work than that of honor. Campbell’s work contributed to the debate precisely because it showed that the components of the local morality were specific to a complex cosmology in which these rather dour and not terribly law-abiding shepherds managed to calibrate their view of their social world to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. thereby giving a specifically theological as well as social depth to their morality. I soon found that its generalizing translations obscured rather than illuminated what I encountered in fieldwork. As a somewhat critical heir – trained by Campbell himself – to the “Mediterraneanist” tradition to which these values were central (see Peristiany 1965). At no point in his ethnography does he argue that Sarakatsan values are typical of Greece. by extreme example. to its logical conclusion. and although honor was a key word in the title – that required conformity with this paradigm. There was in fact nothing in Campbell’s book – although he had studied with Peristiany. with the added twist of a doctrinal tradition at odds with the social practices of his informants. let alone the whole Mediterranean region. Recognizing this. Campbell thus brought state and local society into a juxtaposition that is far more complex than simply treating the honor code. E. – 120 – . But they turned the doctrine of Original Sin to their own purposes. He makes no self-authorizing claims about the untranslatability of terms but meticulously documents words and phrases that he sees as significant to local actors. Campbell does explore the notion of timi in some detail. suggesting that.Michael Herzfeld translation. In this regard his work more closely resembled that of E. Campbell thus pushed Evans-Pritchard’s rehistoricizing of ethnography. with its rejection of Radcliffe-Brown’s (1952: 1) insistence on achronic and “nomothetic” descriptions. but to give us instead a contextualized account of how a word or phrase is used and interpreted. Rather. Honorable Intentions? This is especially true in his discussion of terms he glosses as honor and shame. Evans-Pritchard (1940.

The sense of obligation here is tied to a very specific type of transaction and has nothing to do with a generic sense of honor in the abstract. Even the relatively innocuous duplicity that it entails. an unfortunate necessity for poor shepherds forced to depend on rich and powerful outsiders. We have moved here from the sense of honor as a simple gloss on a historically rich English word to Campbell’s sophisticated reading of a term taken from formal Greek discourse and imbued with ideas that represent a local adaptation to ecumenical doctrine. Generalized talk of “honor” obscures this dimension and leaves the field open to relatively mechanistic – 121 – . In similar vein.” rarely if ever appears in Sarakatsan speech. “love of timii (honor). he is describing a Sarakatsan value with a traceable “family likeness” – although one that admits of wide variation (Herzfeld 1980) – that it shares with similar values. It is very much a social arrangement. and is insured against excessive reliance on a single powerful figure. Above all what is lost here is the sense of intentionality. often marked by roughly the same set of terms. found throughout Greece. This is made possible by the deep specificity of the ethnography itself: as Friedl (1976) remarked some years later. more generically. the adjectival term filotimos frequently is applied to specific individuals. they are not contradicting the widely held Greek view that it is impossible to gauge the intentions of another person. of all Greeks. Greeks generally insist that one cannot read others’ minds – but that premise is itself a part of the complex of ideas and practices through which Greeks talk about each other. anthropologists were never much concerned with “typicality” in Greece. But this apparent duplicity allows a maximization of both political and moral capital: the voter creates multiple strands of mutual obligation. But this ethnographic specificity carries its own traps.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable while the substantive filotimo. however. When the term is lifted from his ethnography to bolster arguments about generalized Mediterranean culture. We do not even know whether they believe that it is possible to know another person’s mind. When Campbell talks about honor. does not actually lie to any one of his patrons. is justified in terms of the pervasive imperfection of human society and specifically of the moral community – a concept that Campbell takes from Evans-Pritchard – of the Sarakatsani and. When Sarakatsani or other Greeks gossip about the motives of some miscreant. They are simply joining in a guessing game that is itself part of the process of making and breaking reputations. What is the extent of the shepherd’s loyalty to his patron? I have heard villagers on Crete describe how they will try to engage the services of more than one political patron by splitting the household’s several votes among competing candidates. we do know that they frequently make claims about having done so. it ceases to be the value of the Sarakatsani and becomes reconfigured to fit the analyst’s preconceptions. The filotimos man is one who observes his obligations: his patron feels he can be trusted to vote in accordance with their pact. they predicate future actions on an attributed sense of obligation.

and for whom the historical origins of the Sarakatsani themselves shed an interesting light on the Balkan politics of national identity. Gambetta 1988. political commitment (Loizos 1975: 301. If certain phrases seem to be repetitious. Economic Facts and Fictions Ernestine Friedl’s ethnography (1962) presents relatively few terms in Greek. but also a place that we recognize: a place where the performance of intention. Unlike Campbell. Because the portrait she paints of a proclivity to use clichés frequently rings true for anyone who has spent time in Greece. ksehazmena) (p.Michael Herzfeld applications of game theory (e. the living room of a house and the market area of the village). 76). but lacking that sense of tension between the socially observable and the personally ineffable that we find so richly present in Campbell’s distinctly Evans-Pritchardian evocation of the “moral community” – a place of paradox and ambiguity. Friedl also supplies Greek terms and translations for social categories (such as ritual kin). and social institutions and socially validated objects (such as the elements of dowry and trousseau). Her choice of a phonemic transliteration places the community squarely in present time. Despite the brevity of her book. spaces that mark important social boundaries (for example. n. the further impression is created that the referentiality of the socially salient terms is unproblematic. Friedl – whose explicit goal is to turn the anthropological focus on a contemporary Western society – is here interested in the – 122 – . such as the reiterated assurance in respect of unpleasantness that “what is past is forgotten” (perazmena. One element that her work nevertheless shares with Campbell’s is the illustrative use of clichés for recurrent situations. the excuse that those in authority never educate “us” properly. Paine 1989) – interesting exercises in their own right. 87) – implying. this is because their constant reiteration provides a means for the villagers to affirm their worldview – a worldview as opaque to individual differences as the villagers are secretive about aspects of themselves. although Friedl does not mention this. however.g. the hurt “how was I to know?” when it turns out the speaker did not have the right equipment to do a particular job (p. Friedl is also a meticulous contextualizer. and the ability to fulfill one’s obligations reveals the impossibility of securely knowing about others’ individual morality even while we depend on being able to act as though we could do exactly that. “we are wrestling”) that mark a conventional parallel between one’s social relations in an agonistic society and those into which one enters with a harsh and capricious natural environment (Friedl 1962: 75). or the response to inquiries about work (palevoume. for whose Sarakatsani the relatively recent history of the Greek War of Independence (1821–27) is a living entity. she implies. 2).

notwithstanding her aversion – which I share – to making claims about typicality. the significance readers will attribute to particular utterances and the larger values and events they metonymically represent. she is able to acknowledges the Greeks’ acquired pride in the classical past without participating in its nationalistic implications. Thus. Indeed. as she shows. Indeed. on precisely these grounds (Pinsent 1986). I have myself been taken to task for not using an Erasmean method of transliterating Greek. or – 123 – . a highly sanitized official rendition. On the other hand. in consequence. As a result. “bitterness” (cf. Thus it is significant and salutary that an anthropologist with distinguished access to classical idioms chose instead to adopt a resolutely modernist transliteration. for some conservative local actors the classical association legitimated the status quo. While scholars who had a genuine acquaintance with rural practice managed quite explicitly to avoid these assumptions (Levy 1956). the use of a classical and Erasmean transliteration will produce proika for the term usually glossed as “dowry. This in turn may lead to some curious assumptions about continuity between ancient and modern social institutions.” we are all the more forcibly reminded that this is an erudite conceit. recalling the truly embittering pressure that the dowry system – formally abolished only in 1984 – placed on fathers and daughters. But it is interesting nevertheless to note how this ‘flat” temporality meshes with the effects of a purely phonemic transliteration system and the array of entirely conventional phrases that adorns the text. the conventionality of both the everyday phrases and these invocations of a rather newly acquired historicity mask any degree of individual critique or reaction. a phonemic transliteration captures the dialect pun conjoining prika (dowry) with its homonym prika. By contrast. Although it rests on a matter of fine detail. Yet we know that Greek villagers do not all act alike. so that when Friedl (1962: 106) tells us how the villagers invoke Ksenios Zefs and then has to explain that this is “Zeus. while Friedl did not discuss this kind of linguistic elaboration (but see Herzfeld 1980). the patron of strangers. standard – and ancient – pikra). she was one of the first contributors to our awareness of the burdens of the dowry system (see also Skouteri-Didaskalou 1991). Doubtless her choice of a very ordinary village made such a generalized sense of the past almost inevitable.” thereby suggesting to the philologically informed the etymologically correct derivation from ancient Greek proix (stem proik-). But these transliterations have the advantage of not begging any questions about possible links with antiquity. incorporated into village consciousness through processes that have also fashioned our own uncritical assumptions about cultural continuity.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable past only inasmuch as she notes the villagers’ highly generalized awareness of classical antiquity through. Classicists dislike such transliterations. the impact of choice in transliteration is vitally important because it may determine a whole range of associations and. precisely because they conceal potentially interesting etymologies.

Michael Herzfeld evaluate each others’ actions in wholly consistent terms. Campbell – despite more numerous generalized descriptions of what people do at marriage, in a fight or feud, and so on – offers numerous highly individualized vignettes consistent with a society in which eccentricity exists even if it is not always approved: John Charisis who in tearing his shirt to shreds at weddings illustrates the idiosyncrasy known as khouï (Campbell 1964: 45–46), the man who discreetly throws a stone to warn a man beating his daughter that this excessive behavior has gone too far (1964: 190), the father who harangues a scholastically inept daughter without criticizing his wife for comforting her (1964: 157). Such incidents provide agency-sensitive specificity for terms and concepts, rendering purely referential translations increasingly redundant and indeed inadequate. Friedl offers much less of this specificity. Her villagers are by no means flat, lifeless figures; they are simply not so dramatically present. This is in part the result of a difference between the two settings: the Sarakatsani, even if not always fully tolerant of the eccentricity that leads to excess (for which Campbell invoked the term khouï), live in a world of performances both dramatic and aggressive, while Vasilika is a settled agricultural community where calm is highly valued. But in part, too, it reflects the cultural bias of the tradition within which Friedl was writing – a search for configurations (Benedict 1934), or an eidos (Bateson 1958: 220) – that corresponds in its synchronicity to the social structure identified, despite his more processual orientation, by Campbell. Both the choice of what to render in Greek and then to translate, and that of what transliteration or other representation to us, are directly tied to the dominant concern in the anthropology of the 1950s and 1960s, in both Britain and the United States despite the much-touted distinction between social and cultural anthropology, to describe entities and to avoid the methodological individualism suggested by such terms as experience. This was healthy inasmuch as it avoided begging questions about intentionality at the level of the description of everyday norms and characteristic events. But it did of course sidestep a difficult question: Meaning is the result of the agency, not of words, but of the people who speak them; and, if we cannot read their thoughts, how can we actually talk about meaning?

Inclusive Pragmatics
Here the growing influence of ordinary language philosophy on both sides of the Atlantic was crucial on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain, Needham (1972) ridiculed the very idea of describing psychological inner states, rather than observing a negotiation of the collective representation of these states. In the United States the rise of sociolinguistics, notably the work of Bauman (1977), Gumperz and Hymes (1964), and Labov (1972), raised new possibilities, including that of rescuing language from its social isolation and bringing its demonstrable performativity to – 124 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable bear on explanations of social and cultural change. Despite now obvious criticisms, all these approaches together created new possibilities for social analysis – especially, perhaps, in those cultures (and I would argue that Greece is one such) in which talk and even linguistic form are subjects of everyday speculation. Perhaps in part because of the centrality of linguistic continuity to the ideological sustenance of their national identity, even relatively ill-educated Greeks often evince a fascination with etymology (especially of toponyms) and the play of neoclassical, demotic, and dialect idioms in the negotiation of social authority and political clout. Such linguistic reflexivity poses especially interesting questions for our discussion of translation, because it indicates, however opaquely, a degree of intentionality that makes the referential illusion that words rather than people “mean” increasingly unsustainable. One criticism of these approaches is nevertheless that they reduce everything to language, text, and performance. I have addressed some of those objections elsewhere (Herzfeld 1997a). Here, let me note that many of the so-called linguistic models (e.g. diglossia, poetics) are in my view wrongly restricted to language (and therefore wrongly considered to be linguistic models) because they reflect patterns observable in a much wider range of semiotic systems, including the entire gamut of social interaction. I should also add that if we can find evidence for semantic inventiveness in seemingly “inert” verbal texts – bits of museologically preserved folklore such as teasing songs that have been snatched from their social contexts and set down in the frozen written form beloved of traditional philologists – then, a fortiori, we should be able to identify in a whole range of activities the effects of agency even if we cannot, in functionalist fashion, divine either the motives or the purposes that may have generated these effects. In this sense, I suggest, we are not translating at all – but we must still try to translate the verbal elements that constantly recur, because these provide us with a pragmatic link between the ineffable elements of social intention and the rhetoric of referentiality that all social science discourse shares with all other forms of social action. Translation is a necessarily provisional device, as Vellacott recognized: it is the first toehold up the slope, but it is emphatically not a substitute for contextual description. It plays a part in ethnographic description – a pragmatic part – but ethnographic description cannot be reduced to it. Even the analysis of folklore texts, properly contextualized, can provide some sense of this. When I was still a student I tried to translate a set of mandinddhes (Cretan rhyming or assonant verse couplets) into English, matching rhyme scheme for rhyme scheme: “I went and found a lonely church and prayed on bended knee,! and I beheld the Mother of God as she shed tears for me” (pigha ke proskinisa s’ ena erimoklisi, k’ idha ti Mana tou Khristou ya mena na dhakrizi). I took these to a well-known poet and translator of modern Greek literature, who offered blunt advice: these were doggerel, the Greek originals were not, and perhaps I could – 125 –

Michael Herzfeld overcome the difficulty by rendering the English in dialect? Discouraged, I took my leave, and – perhaps fortunately – never tried to inflict them on anyone else. In reflecting on this incident now, I am struck by the thought that the advice was in itself an interesting commentary. Most scholars would generally, I suspect, experience less acute social discomfort with using relatively low-status dialects of foreign languages that they already know well in standard or official form than with speaking similarly low-status dialects of their own mother tongues – an act that could all too easily be construed as condescending. At the time I wrote these translations I was beginning to acquire a slight grasp of Cretan, but certainly had no ability to speak any dialect of English other than my own “received” version. Yet what we both shared was a view that these Greek verses were far from trite. Was the solution to the apparent triteness of any rhymed rendition in English through the internal exoticization of dialect? Perhaps my interlocutor was right. The alternative was to avoid rhyme altogether. Yet for me the rhyme scheme was crucial – and it became all the more so when, graduating beyond the analysis of texts for which the social context largely had to be intuited from the internal evidence of the texts themselves, I found myself working with a community of shepherding families in west-central Crete whose members had very decided ideas of their own about the production of meaning – that notion of simasia that I was to be chastised for recognizing as a theory and for “failing” to see that its social import was separate from its semantics. For these people, context was everything, because one could perceive the effects of a particular set of mandinadhes without assuming anything about either intentions or referential meanings – two aspects about which, anthropologically sensitive to a fault, they expressed pervasive skepticism. A rhyme served to give iconic palpability to the sense of “capping” that was considered the main achievement of competitive versifiers – that, and other poetic devices all consistent with a Jakobsonian vision of poetry, but with the added specificity that the “diagrams” these versifiers were producing were iconic of social relations. In particular, rhyme served as a convention for encapsulating antithesis, paralleling (for example) the way in which, at weddings, pairs of men compete in turn to toast the newly-weds and to insult each other in a genial fashion, expressing thereby the tension of a community in which solidarity is predicated on the recognition of mutual aggression and potential hostility. Now it is also true that these verses were couched in a dialect that differed in certain key respects from the national standard language. That language is so hegemonic that the Greek-born copy editor of my ethnography of the village tried to change all my Cretan texts to standard Greek on the grounds that I apparently did not know Greek well enough! So would not a translation into a dialect of English – say, Geordie – not have similarly marginalized my verse translations? Moreover, dialect speakers have their own quiet – or not so quiet – forms of revenge against the domination of standard forms. These devices included, in the Cretan village, – 126 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable expressive liberties taken with grammatical rules, many of them explained in my text (see also Herzfeld 1985b, and doubtless the major source of the copy editor’s linguistic disgust. In the end it seemed advisable to include both highly literal translations and the phonemically translated “originals,” along with as much context as possible. And in providing that context my informants were assiduous, realizing even more viscerally than anthropologists (for these texts were drawn from their own life experiences, after all) that without context there could be no meaning. (It is true that in my first book I rendered a pompous poem by a nationalistic folklorist in archaic English in order to convey something of the flavor – to use the conventional metaphor – of the katharevousa original [Herzfeld 1982: 82]. But here I was moving between two academic universes that were closely linked by historical ties and continuing interaction, so that the Greek – which was partly written in imitation of Western models in any case, syntax and all – was relatively accessible to the devices of translation.) Since the mandinadhes reproduced the forms of social relations, moreover, and since they were also used to negotiate the practical consequences of those relations, they came to play a central part in my ethnography. I was not interested in focusing only on language, as a “linguistic anthropologist” might have done. But I did want to highlight the constitutive role of language in the ongoing relationships among the villagers, and above all the capacity of villagers to enunciate, to acknowledge, and above all to use analogies between the aesthetic economy of speech and the moral economies of other domains such as raiding, sex, and politics. For the absence of much discussion of these issues in most ethnographies was as much of a distortion of Greek social worlds as perhaps my heavy emphasis on them was seen to be. It seemed worth the risk of new distortions – and what description is not skewed? – in order to refocus analysis and rectify the earlier omissions. Such a move, however, moves the problems of translation into an altogether more central place. Translation is no longer just a metaphor for ethnographic labor, to be adopted or rejected according to one’s convictions, but a necessary part of the enterprise. Even if Campbell and Friedl, in their very different ways, had been able to offer and then contextualize glosses on key terms and expressions, their principal contributions lay much more in the description of the contexts than in their actual translations. Yet I would argue that in my greater focus on language issues I have adopted essentially the same tactic as that used, especially, by Campbell, albeit on a much more massive scale. Like him I provide glosses on all Greek terms, then attempt to suggest a sense of the range of contexts in which those glosses would not outrageously violate the villagers’ own understanding of the originals. Since I also believe that the villagers contributed significantly to my theoretical equipment, not solely to the collection of data, I am able to use their exegetical commentaries – 127 –

Michael Herzfeld on the meaning of verbal texts and other social actions alike – indeed, from an Austinian perspective that very distinction looks as absurd as it apparently did to the villagers – as a means of moving my own readers from the role of passive consumers of translation to that of actively engaged interpreters. They may not be ready yet to throw the book into the fire – at least, not on these grounds – but they should already have a vision of village life that is not dependent on my providing them with a purely referential list of characteristics: this is a dowry, this is their creed, and so on. Readers are invited to see the villagers’ use, not only of terms and categories, but also of the entire range of their symbolic universe.

The Writing Effect
The question of intentionality became more prominent again for me when I recently turned my hand to writing an “ethnographic biography” (Herzfeld 1997b). Here I was concerned to use the life and writings of a novelist and occasional historian – Andreas Nenedakis – who had lived and worked in many of the sites of my own ethnographic work, in order to explore the relationship between novels and ethnographies through a comparison of our respective idioms of representation. A significant component of that project was the exploration of the role played by representations of psychological inner states in anthropological analysis and discourse. Following on the suggestive writings of Cohen (1994: 180–191) about the relevance of novels – and aware, too, of Benedict Anderson’s (1983: 32–40) musings on the interrelations among novels, language standardization, and the ostensible routinization of sentiment in nation-states – I worked from the likelihood that novelists’ willingness to portray motives and emotions provided a space for contesting and affirming currently prevailing collective representations of such states of mind. In the reactions of critics and the general public as well as in arguments about genre (fiction vs. history, etc.), one might arrive at a more pluralistic rendition of “culture” than the ordinary ethnographic mode of description usually permits. Hybrid genres encourage hybrid tactics. On the one hand, I found myself translating large segments of Nenedakis’s novels in a manner designed, I hope, to convey accurately my understanding of the original without necessarily being literal to the point of ugliness. On the other hand, in passages where I was discussing Nenedakis’s use of words and ideas, I resorted to a classic ethnographic ploy: implying, in effect, that certain terms simply did not yield to direct translation (a classic translators’ conceit), I expounded at great length on the meaning of such terms as kaïmos, which is usually glossed as “grief.” Now an ethnopsychological classification, given the ultimate irreducibility of terms denoting psychological inner states, must – at least implicitly – be a classification of overt responses and the circumstances to which they are appropriate. – 128 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable If – this is an old chestnut in Greek folklore studies – we can clearly distinguish between performance genres such as “lament/dirge” and “song” (with a subcategory of marriage song), we are making a distinction based on the appropriate idioms for expressing emotion, not on the emotions themselves. We may then perceive a degree of similarity between the formal classification of genres and that of emotions (see Herzfeld 1981). But even this does not mean that we have arrived at an understanding of how speakers of the language actually experience emotions (although, as Leavitt [1996] notes, we may have a pretty good sense of real empathy with them at moments of great crisis or joy). It means that they recognize a homology between presumed emotional states and the genres locally said to be the most appropriate for expressing them. So when Nenedakis describes an emotion, and attributes it to one of his characters, we may feel – particularly if we know the cultural background well – that he probably knows whereof he speaks. When, for example, in his novel about a struggling young art student from the provinces whose lover’s parents humiliate her because she will not bring a dowry into the family (or even a marriage, for that matter), his descriptions of her frantic, jumbled, often agonized frustration are deeply moving (Nenedakis 1976). But since this is a fictional character, the only standard of verisimilitude he must satisfy is a cultural standard of verisimilitude. (Think again of Austin’s [1971] treatment of excuses, which only had to be culturally and socially plausible but not necessarily factually persuasive.) As long as he stayed within that idiom, no one would challenge him on the grounds that “young women do not think that way” – because many of his Greek readers will have heard young women speaking that way (although perhaps too secretively to have made it into the writings of anthropologists thus far!). The student’s voice is also convincing because what it says is not the only kind of self-pity we meet in Greece. It belongs to a whole range of exasperated – and to some extent competitive – victimology (see Dubisch 1995: 212–217). Indeed, it is clear that Nenedakis has often been concerned to explore the feelings of underdogs of all categories, so that the hapless art student serves also as an allegory of the persecuted political Left and of the working class. The idiom of victimization should be rather transparent to any Greek, even a male generally unsympathetic to the social plight of ambitious young women from the countryside – especially as a hitherto dominant strain in the cultural life of the country has been the image of the generic Greek as “underdog,” and as “competitive suffering” is a well-established mode of social interaction (Diamandouros 1994; Dubisch 1995: 214). How can we show that the whining tone of self-pity is both normative and, in its deep cultural resonances, actually interesting? Because he can transcend both his own interests and those he attributes to the rather complaining, dirt-poor student, Nenedakis can project a powerful sense of the idiom that his readers are assuredly able to recognize and appreciate. – 129 –

in the mutually opposed terms of two supposedly irreconcilable epistemological camps. they are – like all translations – necessarily imperfect. Our translations are thus also. perhaps. the truer to life? – 130 – . in a field where descriptions make some claims to verisimilitude. For the deconstructionist. like the social life we study. for want of a better device. but foreclose none. a setting of a poem about the endless misery of life in an island prison camp. To the contrary. Ethnographers’ constant reminders that the terms they translate are always ultimately untranslatable presuppose that provisionality: where the translator of fiction may insert unobtrusive aids to understanding. is often risk-fraught in the extreme: the higher the risks taken. if only because we cannot know exactly what meanings were intended by the original actors. the ethnographer’s aids must obtrude. For translation. and it is I who must by turns invoke its salience ethnographically by describing my own reactions to hearing that song under related circumstances and then spell out the ethnosemantic dimensions of a word that can mean both consuming grief (in part through a folk etymology linking it to “burning”) and the longing excitement of the dedicated enthusiast. we freeze-frame as reified images of “culture. I could do so without having to pretend that novels and ethnographies were the same thing and perform the same labor. For the positivist. it imposes a textual closure that denies the possibility of infinite alternative interpretations. interspersed by moments of extraordinary cruelty. to conjure up that extraordinary moment when oppressed Greeks began to realize that the military dictatorship could be resisted and began to sing this song sotto voce. is conveyed poetically and iconically by the dull thud of repetitive. it removes the possibility of falsifiability (Popper 1968: 40).Michael Herzfeld When Nenedakis writes about emotion. novelist that he is. It is thus in the construction of the ethnographic biography that I eventually faced the problem of translation as a rendition of intentionality – of meaning as intention. these suggest many possibilities. I could exploit the limitations of each mode in order to highlight the advantages of the other for any attempt to understand the complex. he does so by invoking Theodorakis’s haunting song of that name. then. leaden phrases dramatically interrupted by painful flashes of vivid memory. Failure to do so is a failure. not in spite but because of its precarious provisionality.” As for the translations used by ethnographers. he usually employs both direct description and the sheer suggestiveness of his prose. constantly shifting worlds that. must serve as constant reminders that the job is never done even as they seek to achieve that impossible closure. necessarily provisional. That is why we provide anecdotal examples. For example. the crushing boredom of life on a prison island. It is the act of translation. When Andreas wants us to understand kaïmos. In this deliberately hybrid genre. I could afford to bring the speculation about inner states that is appropriate to fiction into direct juxtaposition with the ethnographic commitment to recording only observable representations. intriguingly. What is more. that holds ethnographic description to an honest awareness of its own limitations.

London: Verso. we will also have surrendered some of that privileged incommensurability of which Asad (1993) justly complains. – 131 – . Rowley. Honour. 1958. Cohen. not only to our colleagues. Sebeok (ed. “A Plea for Excuses.” In Philosophy and Linguistics. Malcolm. If we embrace the risks that it entails. Self Consciousness: An Alternative Anthropology of Identity. Thomas A. Roger and Albert Gilman.). Explorations in Language and Meaning: Towards a Semantic Anthropology. Anthony P. 1971. but to those we study and who can comment knowledgeably. Richard. 253–276. 1976. Brown. J. Bateson. Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. If we can consequently build into the writing of ethnography this sense of the provisionality of its embedded translations. Thomas O. Genealogies of Religion. Evans-Pritchard. “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity. Crick. Ruth. (ed. Beidelman. Family. we potentially – in the vastly interconnected world we now inhabit – render ourselves more accountable. J. Benedict R.). Pp. 1971. References Anderson.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable The question of what it means to view psychological inner states as culturally defined refocuses attention on the agency entailed in all forms of representation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. however. Naven: The Culture of the Iatmul People of New Guinea as Revealed through a Study of the “Na yen” Ceremonial. 1964. The Translation of Culture: Essays Presented to E. 1983. 2d ed. 1934. 79–101. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Tavistock. O’G. Pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press. MA: MIT Press. New York: John Wiley/Halsted. MA: Newbury House. Verbal Art as Performance. 1960. 1977. Austin. Cohn Lyas (ed. and with reciprocal accountability. and Patronage: A Study of Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community.” In Style in Language. 1993. E. on our competence as revealed in the act of translation. the presence of some form of translation in ethnography is a precondition for its existence. For while he is right to interrogate translation as a metaphor of ethnography. K. Gregory. Bauman. Asad. 1994. L. Oxford: Clarendon. Talal. Cambridge. Benedict. London: Routledge. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. London: Macmillan. Campbell.). Patterns of Culture.

1– 465). E. pp.: American Anthropological Association. 225–241.). —— Ours Once More: Folklore. Rinehart. Geertz. Washington.” Anthropology 9. 1981. 1985b. and Politics at a Greek Island Shrine.” Word. Jill. Evans-Pritchard. New York: Basic. 1962. “The Dowry in Greece: Terminological Usage and Historical Reconstruction.C. 1962. David D. 1982. [Remarks]. Vasilika: A Village in Modern Greece. New York: Holt. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Gilmore. D. Indigenous Psychologies: The Anthropology of the Self. Lee. Drummond. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity. Charles. pp. Pp. 1985a. and Dell Hymes (eds. Ferguson. Estudio no. 633–660. —— “Gender Pragmatics: Agency. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. 1956. —— Essays in Social Anthropology. —— Anthropology through the Looking-Glass: Critical Ethnography in the Margins of Europe. Paul. Nikiforos. and Winston. pp. Ideology. pp. 1981. Oxford: Clarendon. The Translation of Cultures.” Journal of American Folklore 94. 1983. Austin: University of Texas Press. ——. 50. Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations. New Haven: Yale University Press. Michael. New York: Columbia University Press. 25–44. In a Different Place: Pilgrimage. Gumperz. —— “Performative Categories and Symbols of Passage in Rural Greece. 1981. Madrid: Centro Juan Mach de Estudios Avanzados en Ciencias Sociales. Gambetta. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.” Ethnohistory 27. 1940. Oxford: Clarendon. The Ethnography of Communication. Herzfeld. Gender.). John J. 286–288 (= Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 268. —— The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and identity in a Cretan Mountain Village. London: Faber & Faber.). The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. In Regional Variation in Modern Greece and Cyprus: Toward a Perspective on the Ethnography of Greece. and Bride-Theft in a Cretan Mountain Village. 44–57. Dubisch. Friedl. Muriel Dinien and Ernestine Friedl (eds.).Michael Herzfeld Diamandouros. “Diglossia. Ernestine. Diego (ed. Heelas. 1980. 1994. London: Academic Press. —— Nuer Religion. 1995. 325–340. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Clifford. Johannes. E. 1959. 1973. 1990. pp. Fabian. P. – 132 – . and the Making of Modern Greece.” American Ethnologist 8. Speech. “The Serpent’s Children: Semiotics of Cultural Genesis in Arawak and Trobriand Myth. 1988. 1987. Cultural Dualism and Political Change in Postauthoritarian Greece. 1976. and Andrew Lock (eds. 1964.

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–5 –
Translating Folk Theories of Translation
Deborah Kapchan

The event of a translation, the performance of all translations, is not that they succeed. A translation never succeeds in the pure and absolute sense of the term. Rather, a translation succeeds in promising success, in promising reconciliation. There are translations that don’t even manage to promise, but a good translation is one that enacts the performative called a promise with the result that through the translation one sees the coming shape of a possible reconciliation among languages. (Derrida 1985a: 123)

In the history of anthropology, Western theoretical perspectives have consistently been privileged over vernacular or folk theories. Although the latter are often objects of interest, they are deemed to possess little explanatory potential, usually because they assume ways of knowing and being incompatible with those of the analyst (Gellner 1970; cf. Asad 1993). What happens when this hierarchy is challenged and folk theories share the status of Western theory? What does an analysis of folk theories of translation, for example, contribute to the anthropologist’s translation of cultural poetics? In order to answer these questions, this chapter examines the folk theory of one Moroccan verbal artist, a storyteller who translates literary texts written in classical Arabic (fusHa, or CA) into oral renditions performed in Moroccan dialectal Arabic (darija, or MA). Through his metanarratives, we are able to ascertain an emergent theory of local translation between languages (CA and MA) and modalities (oral performance and written text) that reveals important junctures in cultural attitudes toward language, aesthetics and the performance of modernity.

The Storyteller in the Age of Information Translating the Written Text in Oral Performance
Storytellers carry us from one realm to another, from the mundane and material to the imaginal and ethereal. Storytellers are translators by definition insofar as the verb “translate” means to “transport” or to make to pass over.1 Traveling from one imaginary world to another, their power lies in their ability to traverse these worlds, somewhat like a shaman, bringing the listener with them. Contemporary Moroccan – 135 –

Deborah Kapchan storytellers apprentice themselves not to the masters of epic memory and meter as in preceding generations, however (cf. Reynolds 1995; Slyomovics 1987), but to books wherein these hybrid tales of diverse and oral provenance have been transcribed and codified into classical Arabic texts. Like public writers, Moroccan storytellers have functioned as brokers of literary culture, acting as bridges between the world of written tales and those of aural imagination. In the diglossic context of Moroccan verbal art this has entailed translating epics from classical Arabic back into oral colloquial Arabic for speakers of Moroccan dialect. Yet the verbal art tradition in Morocco has changed radically in the space of several generations. Whereas the old remember the epic storyteller in the marketplace as a respected and central figure in social life – someone responsible for recounting legends, stories and history to an illiterate audience – the young know these narratives, if they know them at all, through television reenactments and only rarely through books. This is due to the fact that the marketplace as a site of public performance has diminished in importance, replaced by television and other forms of media. It is also attributable to rising literacy rates which render the storyteller’s function as translator less essential. Although the storyteller can still be found in the open air marketplace (particularly in the halqa, the performance space of the market), he has now become something of an anomaly, frequented by the old and the unemployed, an object of nostalgia, appropriated as an icon of Moroccan “folklore” in local and international venues.2 In Morocco there are several languages spoken by overlapping communities: three different dialects of Berber, some French and Spanish, as well as Moroccan Arabic. The latter, a grammatically simplified form of classical Arabic with syntactical borrowings from Berber and vocabulary from both Spanish and French, is one of the dialects most impervious to comprehension by speakers of other Arabic dialects due to the isolation of North Africa, the shortening of its vowel system (vis-à-vis Middle Eastern dialects) and its eventual convergences with other languages (see Heath 1989). Its status as the mother tongue for the majority of Moroccans is unquestionable. Moroccan Arabic is a purely oral communication, a sound system without a written representation.3 It is the language of intimacy, of anger and desire. In the diglossic context of Moroccan verbal art the storyteller translates epics from classical Arabic into oral colloquial Arabic for speakers of Moroccan dialect. The storyteller’s translation of these epics makes these stories local; it is a means of appropriation, in the Ricoeurian sense (1976), whereby a written text discloses itself to another world – in this case a world of orality and affective meaning – thereby creating a third domain, a new world of in-between. The epic stories told in the marketplace in Morocco have long histories in oral tradition. A Thousand and One Nights, the epic of Ben Hillal (al-Hillaliyya) and the story of ‘Antar (al-‘Antariyya) were all originally oral texts, spoken in different languages and dialects, before being written down and codified in classical Arabic. – 136 –

Translating Folk Theories of Translation Unlike the storytellers of even a generation or two ago, however, contemporary storytellers in Morocco do not go through an apprenticeship with a master, nor do they learn their oeuvres through audition and committing formulae and form to memory. Rather, these storytellers buy books, most of them published in Beirut, read them carefully and then translate them to less-literate audiences with different degrees of fidelity. In the following story about storytelling, the raconteur’s explanation of this process reveals much about the importance of style in rendering the affective qualities of language. In the longer narrative he recounts how he learned his craft. It is not through verbal formulae, rhyme or memorization. In fact, it is the inverse of oral formulaic theory proposed by Lord (1960) wherein a poet memorizes a metric and sonic scheme and infuses it with content; here a literate man reads texts in classical Arabic in order to translate them into dialect for his less literate audience. It is a story that involves the translation (of desire, of meaning, of affect) from the written medium to the verbal one, from the high literary language to the maternal language of ‘home’ and from the visual (the text) to the auditory and performative. Speaking of his trade, Moulay ‘Omarr notes:
#1 The storytellers go out m-malin l-qisas kay-khurju between afternoon and sunset prayer f-nus ‘assr l-skhar qrabat l-maghreb. They go out when it gets cool. kay-khurju f-brudet l-hal so people will stay bash bnadem y-g‘ud . . . People have to stay khassu bnadem y-g‘ud and for this the earth needs to be cool for them u ‘la had khas l-‘ard tebred li-hum. The epic teller in Marrakech u mul s-sira lli f-marraksh is behind the Koutoubia [mosque] kayn ura l-kutubiya 5


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Deborah Kapchan
behind the House of Baroud ura dar l-barud, on the side of the cemetery f-janb r-ruda. He, too, recounts from the book. walakin kay-‘awd ta huwa men l-ktab. He reads from the book. kay-qra men l-ktab. In classical Arabic, not in dialect. b-l-fuha mashi b-d-darija. He reads. kay-qra. He doesn’t know how to interpret. ma y-‘arf-sh ma y-‘arf-sh y-shrah. He doesn’t interpret. sh-harh ma ‘andu-sh. He reads from the book. kay-qra men l-ktab. Like now, he holds the book bhal daba kay-shad l-ktab He starts: “Antara Son of Shadded said . . .” y-bda: “qala ‘antara ibnu shaddad . . .” and this and that kada ‘ila ‘akhirih. Those people are used to his telling style dak bnadem daba mddiyn ‘la t-t‘awid dyal-u. They are taken with what he says. mddiyn ‘la dak sh-shi lli tay-gul. Like those here now [in this town] – bahal hadi daba lli hnaya – 20 15 10

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Translating Folk Theories of Translation could the audience of Moulay Ahmed come to me? wesh y-qadru shab mulay hmid y-jiu l-‘and-i l-hnaya? No. . Those old people are taken with his style. . If you start saying something [different]. . ma n-qdar-sh n-dakhel fi-ha shi haja lli . they’re going to tell you. “stop sir. ghadi y-gulu l-ak “wa hda flan. Moulay Ahmed’s audience doesn’t come to me. . faytin sam‘in u faytin kada. . li-’anna dau ‘la t‘awid-u. They have been with him for a long time. . I can’t add anything that’s not . . In classical Arabic. daba s-sira ghadiya . Now with epics I’m going to . . haduk m‘a-h qdam. he tells them just from the book. because if you add something li’anna huwa daba ila dakhelt-i shi haja there are people sitting there kaynin n-nas lli ga‘din m‘a-k they’ve heard it before. . la shab mulay hmid ma kay-jiu-sh ‘and-i ana. ila jit-i t-gul li-hum ye‘ni wahed l-haja lli kada. daba kat-lqay ‘and-u huwa ghir sh-shiyab. ddau duk sh-shiyab ‘la t-‘awid-u. “where the hell did you get that from?” “wayli mnin jibt-i hada?” 35 30 25 – 139 – . b-l-fusha ta huwa kay-‘awed ghir men l-ktab. Moulay Ahmed tells in his style. Because they’ve taken to his style. . mulay h kay-‘awed dak t‘awid dyal-u. You just find old people with him now. ila jit-i t .

50 45 40 – 140 – . just a little laughter..” “fa ‘a‘tihi qadra ma tu‘t-i t-ta‘ama mina l-malh. u wahed sh-shwiyya kada and you keep talking. just like food with its salt. ma t-qawwi. just a little. u bast. u kat-zid tani f-l-hadra.” That is. th-thakira l-qdima. don’t . don’t [laugh] a lot. They say.. bhal ‘ila t-t‘am m‘a l-malh. ye‘ni wahed sh-shwiya dyal l-mzah. . You can’t leave what’s written in the book l-ktab ma t-qdar-sh t-khruj ‘l-ih unless you add something funny llah-huma ‘ila zedt-i shi haja dyal d-dhak and simple.Deborah Kapchan Now they don’t remember the whole epic daba huma ma ‘aqlu-sh ‘la s-sira kamla but when you start talking walakin melli kat-bda nta kat-hdar you start making their memories come alive kat-bda thya li-hum dik th-thakira old memories. ma t. . .. . “perfume it with a little laughter” tay-gul l-ak “wa ‘allil-hu bi-shay’in mina l-mazhi” [CA] “If you give it humor “fa ‘itha ‘a‘tayta-hu l-mizha Then give it just as much as you put salt in food.

between imitation and mimesis. You talk with people as if you’re talking with [them] ordinarily. bhal ‘ila kay-shuf-u f-bnadem f-l-fas qudam-hum 60 55 In the narrative above. representation. sh-harh ma ‘andu-sh. Moulay ‘Omarr’s distinction recalls the Greek meaning of interpretation. his colleague doesn’t “have” (or possess) the art of interpretation. Moulay ‘Omarr makes the distinction between representation and performance. Now. take place in the mother tongue of Moroccan Arabic. Of his rival storyteller in the marketplace who reads the classical Arabic word for word he says. despite their being made audible. according to Moulay ‘Omarr. as well as an intellective process. relating. you’re stuck.4 The “style” that Moulay ‘Omarr refers to is the – 141 – . the code against which others are marked. t-kallem m‘a l-’insan bhal ‘ila kat-t-kallem m‘ah ‘adi.Translating Folk Theories of Translation If you add too much. This language. Because you have to translate what is there li-’annahu khass-ek t-tarjem dak sh-shi lli kayn. ‘ila qallat-ti l-ih.” the proper name. although reading the text in classical Arabic involves the translation of the written word to spoken utterance. u trud-u dariji. which included a performative. but it is not invested with the more personal and performative elements of the improvisation that. me. is not interpretable – the storyteller simply reads it. it is recounting. Here. and those. is referred to as allugha in the dialect. though closest to the mother tongue. he goes on to say. literally. if you don’t put enough. he does not consider it interpretation. who base their stories on the book but who translate and perform the words in dialect. You translate it in darija kat-ttarjm-u b-d-darija and transform it into dialect. here denied to the simple “reading” of texts. Classical Arabic. Moulay ‘Omarr talks about two kinds of storyteller – those in Marrakech who read from the book in classical Arabic. ‘ila katart-i l-ih wahla. it is “the language. like himself. it’s tasteless. if I talk epics with people up there [in the marketplace] daba ana bnadem ‘ila kan t-kallem m‘a-hum tema l-fuq f-s-sira it’s like people see it right next to them. y-ji basel.

Moulay ‘Omarr leaves the classical text to enter an imaginative world.” he says. Moulay ‘Omarr’s decision to interpret and perform the text in the mother tongue intead of rendering it word for word is a conscious choice. rather. Whereas Moulay ‘Omarr characterizes the audience for classical Arabic as “old” (which is why they are taken with this style. They inhabit the narrative event fully because of his performance style. related to memory and fidelity. t‘awid. a habitual way of doing things. an oral rendering. the memories that live in the body must be respected and reactivated. literally. he says. The translation of one sense into another bespeaks an enfoldment. and Chapter 4 of this volume).” kay tkhtaf b-had sh-shi hada. he says that people are “grabbed by it [his story]. see Eickelman 1992. “perfume it with a little laughter” tay-gul l-ak “wa ‘allil-hu bi-shay’in mina l-mazhi” [CA] Here Moulay ‘Omarr makes plain the intimacy of the two forms of Arabic (see Herzfeld 1997. For a man who trades in words. it is comprehensible to most Moroccans with even a minimum of religious education in Qur’anic schools (before the French protectorate. “you start making their – 142 – . is comprised of a younger generation : bezzaf dyal d-drari. Moulay ‘Omarr qualifies it as “tasteless” (basel). Synaesthesia – here the blending of words and taste – becomes the criterion for a good interpretation. the affect that resides in the mother tongue is not only tasty. as it corresponds to old memories). however. He thus has a much larger audience than his colleague Moulay Ahmed. Wagner 1993).5 classical Arabic is not a foreign language. Where Moulay Ahmed reads the classical text. They say. a depth – for food is ingested. a few years of Qur’anic education was the means to acquiring literacy in Moroccan society. As the language of the Qur’an. translation is of several orders – not simply conveying the literal meaning. but profitable. a customary repetition. What’s more. it is not “seasoned”. so the revivifying of their recollections must run true to past course. “When you start talking.Deborah Kapchan Arabic word. but performing the taste of his own translated words. but subtly maligns classical Arabic style (and his competitor in the marketplace) by himself citing a proverb in classical Arabic (lines 46–48). Furthermore. his performative style – in Moroccan Arabic – is more vivid. He is able to read the classical Arabic. Although the classical Arabic telling qualifies as a style among others. penetrating the depths of the body. For Moulay ‘Omarr. giving pleasure and nourishment as it does so. Moulay ‘Omarr’s choice of when he will cite classical Arabic and when he will “translate” into Moroccan dialect are motivated. his audience. embellishing and appropriating the plot. Just as the physical comfort of the audience aids in their attention (“the ground must be cool for them”). a lot of kids. the tastiness of his product is of great import. but simpy a higher register.

“taken with. citing the reported speech of his colleague: He [Moulay Ahmed] starts: “Antara Son of Shadded said . his critique of classical style is made by appropriating the style and register itself. Moulay ‘Omarr uses the word mddiyn. and “perfumed” with laughter. they have been transported by the translation.” (rather than the more common m‘uluf. It is the performative aspect of Moroccan Arabic that the audience is taken with. that is. however. The double-embedding of citation brings Moulay ‘Omarr’s attitude toward classical Arabic to the fore. “used to”) to express the relation between audience and style – the audience is “taken with” the style. On the other hand. He thus demonstrates his own competence in the two registers of Arabic and well as their interpermeability. old memories. .” In other words. he starts working and he begins. Here.” Despite his critique. however. Kapchan 1996). and TAN! He starts talking classical Arabic. And Moulay ‘Omarr exemplifies this. Moulay ‘Omarr clearly recognizes the necessity of faithfulness to the text (“You can’t leave what’s written in the book”).” y-bda: “qala ‘antara ibnu shaddad . where genealogical delineations of reported speech – who said what to whom – are a common rhetorical strategy used to create textual authority by invoking other texts (cf.Translating Folk Theories of Translation memories come alive.” and this and that kada ‘ila ‘akhirih. there are people who won’t undertand. He is imitating and thereby mocking the seriousness of his colleague who reads in classical Arabic. . .” Time depth is here expressed. a written more than a spoken language. There aren’t many who will understand. By mimicking the classical Arabic style. Moulay ‘Omarr verges on hyperbole. Moulay ‘Omarr performs his own theory – the high seriousness of classical Arabic must be brought down. the spoken text ceases being a mere repetition and is transformed into a successful translation. Although talking about classical Arabic. outside the frame of the quote in classical Arabic Moulay ‘Omarr continues to use what in this region would be considered a classicalized Arabic: kada ‘ila ‘akhirih. classical style without laughter and improvisation is tasteless. Briggs and Bauman 1992. reframed with quotation marks. In parodying the style of his colleague. Moulay ‘Omarr is specifically referring to its oral rendition. . Take Moulay Ahmed now. The quotation marks that he places around his colleague’s words transform the act of mere repetition into one of performance and interpretation. for extant memories are recalled and – 143 – . “Because if you don’t tell it in dialect (darija). Given thus taste and smell. “and this and that. Citation practices are common in classical Arabic. he challenges its authority (it doesn’t make people laugh).

l-uwal n-qdar n-‘awd-u kamal. #2 There’s no one who can remember 82 books. on being asked whether he memorized all the epics that he recounts.Deborah Kapchan revivified in their evocation. Nonetheless. t-ji tani l-dak l-klam l-uwal. Like now. 10 5 1 – 144 – . you go here walakin min ba‘d twelli t-amshi huk you go there u t-mshi huk and you leave the epic here u t-khalli s-sira hna and you go over there u t-amshi l-had j-jih and turn it this way and only then u dawer-ha l-had j-jih u ‘ada come back to those first words. min l-mustahil Even if he has an electronic mind he’s not going to remember 82 books. It’s among the impossible. Now take my case daba ana had qadiya lli ‘and-i When I read the book for the first time melli kan-kun kan-qra f-l-ktab l-marra l-uwla I begin to read and I mark the important parts – kan-bda n-qra u kan-ershum l-muhim – the important parts that need to be told of the epic l-muhim lli khasu y-t‘awed f-s-sira. bhal daba. but after that. Moulay ‘Omarr answers. ma kayn-sh l’insan y-qdar y‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab. the first [book] I can recall completely. wakha y-kun ‘and-u dmagh iliktrunik ma ghadi-sh y-‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab.

qal‘at qustantiniya. He reads – already an act of translation. – 145 – . so to speak. you get to know it as the Tower of Shitban. you mark it. they went and got another one – men qal‘at sh-shitban zadu talbin l-qal‘a dyalt kada – the Tower of Constantine. You mark “Constantine. the epidermis. When you get to the part about the palace.Translating Folk Theories of Translation that [part] which takes the epic straight ahead. He uses two words to describe this: ershim [root: ra-sha-ma]. it’s called the Tower of Shitban. like philosophy. bhal had l-qal‘a ‘asmit-ha qal‘at sh-shitban. Like this tower. to mark with a cross (line 19). [Concerning] a description of a palace or something bhal dak sh-shi dyal l-wasf dyal had ksar u kada u kada we have no use for that stuff. and ‘allem [root: ‘la ma]. to the outer form. lends itself to translation because the text as text is effaced. by the places where he needs to come out of his affective depths and be attentive to the text. to mark. Lines that advance the literary plot are marked for their referential meaning (denken) – the kind that. an x. 15 I just mark that which is important. placing a cross. mahma kat-usel l-wahed l-qsar kan-wasf-u RASS-i. to designate (line 13). dak l-muhim kay-ddi s-sira nishan. The poetry (dichten). and then he marks. From the Tower of Shitban. and to naming as a self-conscious enactment. hadak sh-shi ma-‘and-na ma-n-diru b-ih. kat-‘alem ‘li-ha.” kat-sharet ‘l “qustantiniya.” 25 20 Moulay ‘Omarr marks the surface structure. in the form of descriptions. kan-bda n-‘allem ghir dak sh-shi lli huwa muhim. kat-bqa t-‘raf-ha ‘la ‘anna-ha qal‘at sh-shitban. I’LL describe it myself. to the second language. to physically inscribe.

for in challenging the boundaries between languages. to give them an affective home. he – 146 – . “synonymous with [the] confusion”7 that so often characterizes relations of intimacy. wakha y-kun ‘and-u dmagh iliktrunik ma ghadi-sh y-‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab.6 The places that Moulay ‘Omarr marks are proper names. is often associated with the transcendent quality of “time immemorial. ironic. and. landmarks upon which he constructs his performance. expressive of another world.8 These different languages represent two different emotional worlds that together inhabit the narrative event that Moulay ‘Omarr and other verbal artists in the Moroccan public domain narrate for their audiences: one. however. a place to be “in. functions to “emplace” the audience. substituting Moroccan names and places. It is not gratuitous that Moulay ‘Omarr makes such careful note of where the storytellers in Marrakech hold forth (“behind the Koutoubia [mosque]. Moulay ‘Omarr seems not to be intimidated by the change in paradigm. in Derrida’s formulation. the storyteller takes responsibility for it himself. as such. Indeed he began his career going to the cinema at night to watch Indian films. swinging between surface and depth.’ or translation between two different sign systems (Jakobson 1960).” If the epic. In this process of “intersemiotic translation. wherein memory is conferred to computers.Deborah Kapchan remains unmarked. Note that the word for “electronic” is a direct borrowing from the French électronique: Even if he has an electronic mind he’s not going to remember 82 books.” this metanarrative about the epic expresses a certain anxiety about the telectronic age.” These two repertoires find recognition in most all male Moroccans old enough to have spent their youth among storytellers in the marketplace. Placenames are also proper names. Although modernization in the form of television viewing has diminished his audience and thus radically affected his profession. in the mother tongue. the other playful. Descriptions. into poetry and gesture. grounding the interlocutor firmly in time and space. “the Language” – that becomes marked. The limits of translatability. along with its temperate climate. they become the pillars of the story. it becomes marked in the oral rendition – his responsibility. names of places. on the side of the cemetery”). authored and performed by the storyteller himself. impermeable to translation. that is. This location. behind the House of Baroud. time-bound and “salty. authoritative. In Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative it is not only the proper name. Here he moves into his own interpretations. but classical Arabic – al-lugha. like the myth. and are called to life again from the depths of experience for strategic and context-dependent reasons. between sign systems and genres of affect (as Moulay ‘Omarr does above) the translator moves in a reversible world. are places of liberty. So whereas it remains unmarked in the written text. the next day recounting the stories he saw there. official. citational. transcendent.

as that the genres that the storyteller lives and narrates are changing. the storyteller is not preoccupied with fidelity. La Blessure du Nom Propre). There was no exact symmetry between them. people gather and sit still and stay. while innovation responds to the marketplace. Speaking of the second language as a lover.” Conclusion The verbal artist discussed in this chapter is engaged in translation – from one language to another. that had to be translated without respite. he takes great license with the form of the narrative. Khatibi is inhabited by the desire to translate the limits of the untranslatable. which he takes from the untranslatable elements of the story – namely. the proper names. he translated visual plots. and not its product. to delineate them and make them recognizable. rather there was a kind of inversion. From Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative we learn the following about his implicit theory of translation: 1) in the diglossic context of Morocco. 2) although the promise of translation is operative. There is no question here of fidelity to the text in terms of literal translation. rendering it in dialect and making it local. along with their affective “sense. he compares them to the evening news – “If you do that ‘news short’. 3) fidelity leads to boredom. When speaking of his performances in the marketplace today. places. Maghreb Pluriel. he imagines its possibility and embodies his vision. events. The storyteller has no anxiety about changing tradition. no encounter both vertical and parallel. to the contrary. To the contrary. only instead of reading classical texts.Translating Folk Theories of Translation implicitly employed the same processes of translation that he employs today. or the foreign lover as language. he models his performances on those of the mass media – news shorts. all the while respecting its storyline. 4) the power of a – 147 – . It is the process of translation that holds promise.” Moulay ‘Omarr’s performances are self-consciously episodic and visual – you see the stories next to you. For him the promise of the reconciliation of languages – the hope and promise that translation is realizable – is an important one. he says (1990: 20). from one modality (written/oral) to another (oral/written). He does not celebrate its failures. to the contrary. In this. he shares much in common with Moroccan essayist and novelist Khatibi whose oeuvre theorizes and poeticizes the predicament of the bilingual (see Amour Bi-lingue. Perhaps it is not so much that “the storyteller in his living immediacy is by no means a present force” in contemporary society as Benjamin asserted (1969: 83). the permutation of an untranslatable love. the mother tongue of Moroccan Arabic is preferred as the more performative and affectively powerful medium of expression. Duplication is not possible.

but that are locked in a relation of permeable and often painful intimacy. but it must be performative. to a kernal of hidden meaning within a shell. its ability to move all the senses and between all the senses (synaestheia). to the ability of the translator to make words both tasty and odiferous. 2. In the folk theory of Moulay ‘Omarr. Notes 1. As Jean Pépin has pointed out (‘L’Herméneutique ancienne. “Everyone knows that the term ‘hermeneutic’ has had different connotations throughout its long history. and of all “official” and written texts. the most recent colonialist language.Deborah Kapchan performance come from its performative depth – that is.’ Poétique 23). During 1999. In fourth grade the pupil begins learning French. representation and performance. it is a language that allows him to reach a larger and younger audience. but more the act of extroversion by the voice. a translation is not purely textual. including herbalists hawking their goods. the mother tongue is the language of poetic elaboration and description. are all dyads that don’t match. In analysing Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative we learn that his criteria for a successful translation are intimately related to synaesthesia. low and high registers of Arabic. Among these events was a reenactment of performances that take place regularly in Jma‘ al-Fna square in Marrakech. in Greek thought the term hermeneia signified not so much the return. so to speak. a series of performances in Paris celebrated Moroccan culture. and storytellers. the imperialist one. aurally. It represents a deeper engagement with his body and a more superficial engagement with the body of the text. a successful translation makes the images come alive – visually. Classical Arabic texts are part of this performance – the script. 4. musicians. that [must be] translated without respite” – the promise of translation. Once a pupil attends kindergarten he or she begins learning the literary language – classical Arabic – the language of the Qur’an. 3. Further. by way of exegesis. faire passer in French. and in sixth grade English. For the storyteller Moulay ‘Omarr. These senses blend together in the body of the performance as they do in the body of the performer. that he nonetheless always holds in his hands. “the permutation of an untranslatable love. orality and literacy. the natural instrument of the soul. It is an active and prophetic productivity which is not connoted by the – 148 – . For him. one whose memories are not as conditioned by past literary renderings of epic stories. the “Year of Morocco” in France. however. olfactorily and gustatorily.

6. they cut out a notch. synonymous with confusion. a trend in Heidegger emphasizing the irreducibility of ‘Dichten–Denken’ and thus their nonpermutability. Yet. They are parallels that intersect.’” Commenting on Heidegger’s remark that to make poetry is to think (dichten ist denken) Derrida remarks (1985a: 130): “On the subject of ‘Dichten–Denken. In effect. he found – 149 – 5. He understood this better thanks to a brief sense of disorientation he had experienced one day at Orly. But there are also texts where he says very precisely that. where translation becomes an integral part of the reading experience. 7.” Eugene Vance quoted in Derrida. they are parallels that never meet. Such interdependency between languages characterizes the Moroccan novel as well.” (Derrida 1985a: 107–08) A similar reversibility (this time between French and Arabic) is noted by Moroccan writer Khatibi. The most secret proper name is. within the confines of the same text. as you have said. as paradoxical as that may seem. There is also. but each cuts across the other. They run parallel one beside the other. as Khatibi has suggested. this literary production is in and of itself plurilingual and in many instances places us. 8. The address is always delivered over to a kind of chance. it can send the address off course. the poetic performance of rhapsodes was a ‘hermeneutic’ performance. They do not wound each other. more than one world experience.Translating Folk Theories of Translation Latin term interpretatio. . in his work Love in Two Languages: “Permanent permutation. and thus I cannot be assured that an appeal or an address is addressed to whom it is addressed. more than one language. ‘dichten’ and ‘denken’ nevertheless have a relation to each other which is such that at places they cut across each other. at the ‘threshold of the untranslatable. postcolonial anglophone and francophone literature very often defies our notions of an ‘original’ work and its translation. therefore. as parallel paths.’ Heidegger of course associates them. waiting for a boarding call. they leave a mark. And this language of the cut or break is marked in the text of Heidegger’s I’m thinking of: Unterwegs zur Sprache [The Way to Language].” “The proper name is a mark: something like confusion can occur at any time because the proper name bears confusion within itself. Hence. in many ways these postcolonial plurilingual texts in their own right resist and ultimately exclude the monolingual demand of their readers to be like themselves: ‘in between. Samia Mehrez remarks (1992: 122) that “By drawing on more than one culture. They are really other and can never be confused or translated one into the other. 1985: 136. For the Greeks. up to a certain point. each leaves its mark in the other even though they are absolutely other. To the extent which it can immediately become common and drift off course towards a system of relations where it functions as a common name or mark. one beside the other.’ at once capable of reading and translating. parallel. while ‘Dichten–Denken’ go together and form a pair. By cutting across each other.

Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition. Deborah. 1993. 1983. Abdelkebir. (The section of this book entitled “Otobiographies: The Teaching of Nietzsche and the Politics of the Proper Name” is translated by Avital Ronell. 643– 655. New York: Routledge. He could place the word only by going by way of his mother tongue. Heath. L. Herzfeld. 1970. 1985a. 1985b. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. English edn Christie V.” In Style in Language. pp. —— Amour Bilingue. Gellner.). Jakobson.” In Illuminations. Hannah Arendt (ed.” American Ethnologist 19(4). Harry Zohn.” In Difference in Translation. Paris: Fata Morgana. Joseph (ed. Thomas Sebeok (ed. MA: MIT Press. 1989.) Eickelman. 1975. Charles. 69–82. Walter.The Hague: Mouton. 1992.” References Asad. seen backward. Roman.) Ithaca: Cornell University Press. as if it were written in Arabic characters – his first written form. Ernest. Briggs. 1990. Jeffrey. 1996. 1960. —— The Ear of the Other: Otobiography. 1992. Dale. 1997. and Social Power. Kapchan. Lord. “Des Tours de Babel. pp. McDonald (ed. 11–74. Trans. Wilson (ed. New York: Schocken. Richard Howard. through a window. B. trans. Intertextuality. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Cambridge. Concluding Statement: “Linguistics and Poetics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.” Folklore: Performance and Communication.).). R.). pp. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. pp. Michael. Turning it around. Hymes.Deborah Kapchan himself unable to read the word South. Jacques.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2(2). Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State. and Richard Bauman. New York: Schocken. Transference. Dell. trans. MA: Harvard University Press. Benjamin. “Breakthrough into Performance. 1960. Translation. London: Kegan Paul. Graham. “The Task of the Translator: An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux parisiens. Talal. Peggy Kamuf. Love in Two Languages. The Singer of Tales. Khatibi. 1969. Albert Bates. – 150 – . he realized he had read it from right to left. Cambridge. “Genre. Derrida. 131–172. “Mass Higher Education and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary Arab Societies. “Concepts and Society.” In Rationality. From Code-Switching to Borrowing: Foreign and Diglossic Mixing in Moroccan Arabic. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press.

Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press. Slyomovics. Susan. “Translation and the Postcolonial Experience: The Francophone North African Text”. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1993. Ricoeur. Subjectivity. Literacy. Culture and Development: Becoming Literate in Morocco. 1995. 1992. Samia. Paul. Ideology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. The Merchant of Art: An Egyptian Hilali Oral Epic Poet in Performance. Daniel A.Translating Folk Theories of Translation Mehrez. Reynolds. Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition. In Rethinking Translation: Discourse. pp. Wagner. Interpretation Theory : Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. New York and London: Routledge. 1987.). 1976. 120–138. – 151 – . Lawrence Venuti (ed. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Heroic Poets. Dwight Fletcher.


the language is rarely portrayed as the bearer of primordial identities.–6– Second Language. as it were. and one assumes unself-consciously. Of course Amien Rais was making a shrewd political calculation in this bid for international support. Having been a childhood speaker of Javanese. but what is striking is how unapologetically he expresses the decision with reference to translation. he has already. What does a national language like Indonesian offer. for whom its “modern” and relatively cosmopolitan character – its inherent translatability – are unquestionable. Shared with Malaysia. English words italicized in the original. not People’s Mandate Party. why he had altered the name of the party from the originally proposed Partai Amanat Bangsa. incorporated a so-called “loan-word. an interviewer for the Indonesian news weekly Tempo asked Amien Rais. and Brunei. he readily imagines it from the perspective of English.1 In this respect it is. – 153 – . National Language. perhaps. He seems to find it a perfectly ordinary matter to encounter Indonesian as doubly foreign. into the Indonesian. and Post-Colonial Voice: On Indonesian Webb Keane The Otherness of One’s Own Best Language In August 1998. as if in anticipation of this future translation. much less a closely guarded cultural property.” nasional. Nor has any of this seemed to trouble either its promoters or most ordinary speakers. Modern Language. Readers of Indonesian print media will be familiar with this pattern of glossing backwards that. similar to Swahili or Filipino. he already comes to it as a second language. translation mine). Singapore. He replied “We chose Partai Amanat Nasional because it would be better translated into English as National Mandate Party. Because the word people in English has leftist connotations” (Amien 1998. a major figure in national Islamic politics and founder of the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional). In addition. if not always unproblematic. Moreover. that so easily invites its speakers to take a view from afar? Certainly not the possibly untranslatable values of local particularity and rich aesthetic heritage. views the language from the position of a hypothetical English speaker – or of an Indonesian unsure of his or her words.

In this respect. the private. in order to underwrite Indonesian’s apparent potential as a superordinate and cosmopolitan language of purportedly “antifeudal. however. for all the peculiarities of Indonesian colonial and postcolonial history. or commonplace plurilingualism. the rise of the national language and its attendant ideologies also reflect pervasive problems in the semiotic mediation of translocal identities and large-scale publics – in the unstable articulation of ideologies with semiotic practices. in some sense. 1997) and Joseph Errington (1998) have pointed out. for example. As scholars such as James Siegel (1986. This promise is inseparable for the imaginability of the nation as a project of modernity – and it is this promise to which Amien Rais seems to be responding. it draws on semiotic features immanent in language per se.” and for mediating their reflexivity. Indonesian is a language whose ideological value has from its early days derived in part from being portrayed to its speakers as a markedly second and subsequent language. The second is cognitive.” This otherness is related to. it is commonly spoken of as needing to be “developed. In being portrayed as a language that. plantations. something one learns by way of explicit rules. the perceived “otherness” of Indonesian has at least two aspects. this potential loss often seems to provoke remarkably little mourning: ethnic-language politics or revitalization movements have been surprisingly rare in the archipelago. it would seem to be readily learnable and translatable – open to anyone. or at least its relegation to the past.” and made into a cosmopolitan literary vehicle. having to do with general paradoxes of national subjecthood.Webb Keane The self-conscious modernity and even cosmopolitan claims of Indonesian as a national standard have been inseparable from a certain projection of “otherness. but ideologically distinct from the forms of linguistic difference characteristic. decentered social and political identities. or marketplaces. It does so. in some ways. of lingua francas. One is biographical: for most of its speakers Indonesian was acquired as a second language in marked contrast to languages denoted as “local” (bahasa daerah. Like them. Indonesian is encountered as relatively objectified. or the subjective. and the specific violence and tedium of an authoritarian state. the local. the dominant language ideologies of Indonesian run counter to the – 154 – . to demand the sacrifice of one’s first language. which underlie its potential for producing both intersubjectivity and objectification. for being disembedded from and reinserted into particular contexts. belongs to no one in particular. and even to such second languages as are picked up. In contrast to the first language children learn at home. scriptural and high literary languages. Moreover. see Keane 1997a). It is the object of purposeful manipulation in a way one’s mother tongue is not. Unlike that first language. in playgrounds. If the national language does not inspire love in all who claim it. this is largely for other reasons. taboo vocabularies. say. honorific registers.” in some sense.” “modernized. for providing speakers with a range of distinctive social “voices. If it can seem.

The language that carries the greatest political and cultural weight may involve a willful sort of self-displacement. since it is in principle available to anyone. no doubt. or at least subordinating. According to Benedict Anderson (1996). which makes it peculiarly suitable as the language of the nation as a project of modernity. Indeed. they envisioned a language purposefully stripped of social indexes and cultural particularities. in principle. and is supposed to be transparent to other languages. And it should allow its speakers to take a recognizable place in the cosmopolitan plane of other languages understood to be modern in character and global in scope. The rise of Indonesian has been associated with a rather cheerful view of the claim that nationalist aspirations are founded on universal categories. but also from kinship. retrospectively construed as their “mother tongue. Indonesian makes two claims to universality that reflect those of modernist nationalisms more broadly. as speakers in important respects understand themselves as giving up. And.” in favor of one deemed to transcend the local in both space and historical time. might enter. It should therefore be a suitable medium for the projection and fostering of a certain kind of persona. They require both practical embodiment in concrete semiotic forms. is widespread as linguistic standardization is recasting normal plurilingualism into a hierarchy of localities encompassed within larger linguistic spheres that explicitly aspire to hegemony (Silverstein 1998: 410).On Indonesian Herderian tradition that seeks in language the deep spiritual or cultural roots of an organic people that preexists the nation. unhampered by untranslatable opacities or untransferable indexes of context. striker. Thus it would seem to be this very otherness. this involves other paradoxes. such projects do not come into being – or fail – as thought-worlds or representations alone. But as the failure of Indonesian (so far) entirely to fulfill these visions suggests. – 155 – . citizen – into which anyone. signified by European words for categories – politician. in one form or another. the Indonesian language seemed for many early nationalists to lend itself to openness to ideas. Indonesian may turn out to be only an extreme instance of a common circumstance in the semiotics and linguistics of nations and their potential publics. In terms of linguistic ideology (Kroskrity 2000). this process. It involves self-conscious efforts to take advantage of language’s general pragmatic capacities for abstraction and decontextualization in order to make possible new and expansive modes of circulation. existing in unstable and even contradictory relations with one another. and the conceptual specificity by which those forms are interpreted within political contexts – the forms and their interpretations. one that speaks in public and is potentially identified with the nation. a local language. and what (under this new universalism) came to be thought of as “feudal” (feodal) traditions. and the sense of openness and even historical agency it evokes. villages. But this is more than a matter of introducing new words and ideas. Indeed. however. from colonialism to be sure. when those nationalists imagined liberation.

an account of the historical particularities of languages and the power relations they involve cannot overlook the endemic problems posed by the semiotics of language. (Indeed. but underdeterminant. the story would go. Indonesian has been a central part of a selfconsciously “modern” project of national self-creation. the (mere) saying of words. And these come to the fore especially to the extent that a heightened sense of agency. Of particular relevance here are popular ideas about historical rupture with “tradition” and its implications for the capacities of humans to be the agents of their own transformation (Berman 1998. by extension. and inevitably involves the meta-linguistic and.Webb Keane Yet we should not assume we know in advance just what speakers see themselves as giving up. in our postlapsarian world. naming has become distinct from action proper. subsequently. as solutions to the problem of divisiveness figured by the Tower of Babel. One is a rupture between two linguistic functions. Taylor 1989). portrays the story of Babel as the loss of a world in which Adam’s act of naming brings things into being. Babel as the Semiotic Condition National languages have usually been posed. for instance in the guise of instrumentalist policies of language reform. For such ideas to be inhabitable requires concrete forms of semiotic mediation. As the example of Indonesian suggests. reference and denotation on the one hand. but not all possible claims about language are equally plausible. and performativity. with all the active and interactive features of speech. on the other. draw on the historically specific interpretations and the exploitation of universal. meta-cultural (Urban 2001) interpretations offered by linguistic ideologies. or at most merely a certain. highly attenuated kind of act. But this habitus is never sufficient unto itself. It is tied to ubiquitous concepts of modernity that orient both high-level policies and everyday activities. among which the sheer pervasiveness of linguistic habitus gives it a privileged role. Ideologies of national and postcolonial languages. makes them the special focus of attention. once upon a time to name was already to act.) These are questions of language ideology. in part. and their implications for the identification of speakers with “their” language – and their potential alienation from it. Babel is an account of social difference that focuses on the material forms of lexical signifiers. The history of Indonesian suggests that the perceived value of that “mother tongue” does not necessarily lie in its ties to local group identity. its “value” may well be produced only in retrospect [Keane 1997b]. Thus. then there exists a rupture between what exists in the world and the – 156 – . In his classic discussion. We may see this as implying two kinds of separations. The other separation follows on the first: if naming is only a linguistic act (and if denoting is the only linguistic act). George Steiner (1975: 58). semiotic features.

In utopian or messianic thought the notion is that if humans can get beyond differences of form. the story implicates the loss of socio-linguistic unity with the loss of the full power of words. By combining two kinds of distinction (between linguistic functions. sound perpetually threatens to disrupt it. reformers have tended to see the distinction between sound and sense in hierarchical and often historicizing terms. Thus. This is the foundation for the arbitrariness of the sign. In less religious terms. Playing up the postAdamic separation of words from the world. Since prayer books emphasize the iterability of texts across contexts. a view whose implications persist in one of the dominant linguistic postulates of the early twentieth century. How can a view of language that is so general shed light on the more particular questions of national identity and its specific language ideologies? Certain semiotic properties come to be topics of interest or sources of concern only under certain circumstances. they seem to privilege material form over immaterial content and thus. worshipers took their words not from the heart but from external sources. These worries about the form–sense distinction produce a variety of alternative scenarios. to which translation would do ontological violence. and between signifier and signified). The question of unity among the speakers of now disparate languages merely compounds the quandaries of identity of speakers’ relationships to their “own” words that are already found in language’s basic characteristics. Saussure’s (1986 [1915]) doctrine of the arbitrariness of the signifier/signified relation. this view sees language as standing between us and the things themselves. for instance. orthodox Muslims respond to the same semiotic problem by asserting that the Qur’an can exist only in the original divine Arabic words. has taken the existence of the sound/sense distinction to be troubling. they might find translation’s underlying enabling condition. And this recurrent theme animates an important strand in ideas of “modernity. Protestantism saw Catholic uses of language as insincere and even idolatrous – marks of their supposedly archaic character (Keane 1997b). a deeper universality. What Humboldt shared with Protestantism is a devaluing of the materiality of the word relative to the human spirit and the autonomy of the human subject. tempt the worshiper to fetishize ritual rather than the true spirit of faith. notably in times of reformism. If sense should be dominant. namely.” – 157 – . in this view. it is the rupture in language which brings about the subsequent social diversity. for instance. By using prayer books. Conversely. who portrayed language as external to humans and thus doing violence to them. the hierarchical and anxious aspect of this critique was expressed early on by Wilhelm von Humboldt (Steiner 1975: 82). the semiotic condition of possibility for linguistic diversity. That the mediation of language itself must necessarily involve some sort of alienation or violence is a common theme in some religious contexts. For example. Only. according to this narrative.On Indonesian names for what exists. Not everyone at every historical moment.

The need for translation. This question. it is clear that boundaries do – 158 – . but also remain human (it communicates). but displays speakers’ and listeners’ political insistence on their distinctiveness from others. traditional hierarchies. in part. Rather. for instance. it also allows one to see language as the object of human actions. This decentering also raises questions about the political status of languages. Therein has often been seen to lie some of the promise of the national language. are historically variable questions. It should translate in both a vertical sense – elevating speakers out of the social and even semantic confines of their local languages – and a horizontal sense – situating them on a plane that will permit them to circulate among other languages of the world. As Judith Irvine and Susan Gal (2000) have argued. becomes less mysterious when the social and political pragmatics of language are taken into view. improved. Potentially a source of alienation. most puzzling when language is taken primarily to be a vehicle for the making of (potentially) true statements. developed. obscure places – that are part of what make “local” languages supposedly unfit for the nation. of the suppression of those indexical links to particular contexts – to social interactions. is not simply an unfortunate. that distinctions of language construct social boundaries and constitute hierarchies. by-product of our fallen state. then what does it mean to say it “belongs” to the people of the nation? Babel and Domination in Postcolonial Critique The story of Babel asks us to wonder why there should be differences when once there was unity – and. in this light. boundaries between languages do not simply reflect differences of social or political identity. the constituting of identities involves ideologies about language differences. Language may be manipulated. That which renders language a possible object of suspicion at the same time makes it available for a certain optimism about what language engineering can achieve. It should share certain properties of divine language (transcending existing disunities). Sociolinguistics has long recognized. Whether people take the decentering that language entails to be of interest and whether negative or positive. expresses a yearning for that lost universality. and how they respond in practice. even contingent. This potential for publicness and circulation are functions. Moreover. including shifting perceptions about the very existence of boundaries.Webb Keane The arbitrariness that lies at the heart of the linguistic sign in most academic theories at least since John Locke (Bauman and Briggs 2000) can be a source of ambivalence for modernizing projects. nor is the very existence of such boundaries merely a “linguistic” fact. These fundamental semiotic issues bear specific historical entailments. making it an objectified focus of ideological concern. parochial memories. If national language takes the decentering inherent in language and carries it to a higher degree. it would seem. perhaps even created anew.

and “English became more than a language: it was the language.” Ngugi links this property model of alienation to another. More specifically. the colonizers and the indigenous “petty bourgeoisie. He thus seems to conflate two kinds of “violence. Ngugi treats language as the property of its speakers. but typically involve both ideological and practical relations of encompassment. a modernist and developmentoriented position tends to stress the view that a standardized national language is a vehicle of the movement toward universality. he spoke Gikuyu. Thus colonial education is a form of violent expropriation – it takes away the language one truly possesses – and alienation – it forces one to use a language that belongs to others. a rupture within experience. and the language of our work in the fields were one” (1994 [1986]: 438). On the one hand. Here the claims of universality mask and legitimate a historically specific set of political relations. introducing a rupture between the language of education and that of home. Thus the reinstatement of opacity between languages becomes a means of resisting domination and fostering autonomous agency. “the language of our evening teach-ins. and so offends against the shared tacit knowledge that defines intimates. subordination and dominance (Silverstein 1998). the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (1994 [1975]) draws on both views in his argument that African writers should use English because it allows them to communicate across Africa and with the world at large. between the language that is the “carrier” of one’s culture (1994 [1986]: 439) and that which is only a means of communication with outsiders. between spoken and written language. these basic semiotic problems underlie arguments about efforts to reclaim local linguistic identity and discursive powers from the effects of colonial domination. Invoking this experience to attack Achebe’s modernist optimism. a supposedly “richer” language should provide resources for the improvement of one that is more “impoverished. bringing peoples together in a global ecumene. This harmony was broken when he went to the colonial school. In the postcolonial context. translation requires some sort of explication or contextualization that is not necessary in the original. the Western claims to understand and master indigenous others that are enacted through translation may be crucial to the everyday workings of power. Linguistic differences are rarely if ever neutral. Moreover.” that which transpires – 159 – . The Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote that when he was a child. Indeed. Explication performs an act of interpretation on words that had been left to the recipient to interpret and can thus appear as a form of aggressiveness.” To some extent. In colonial situations. italics in the original). and all the others had to bow before it in deference” (1994 [1986]: 438. and the language of our immediate and wider community. it has owners (1994 [1986]: 436). An opposed position stresses the ways in which translation offends against the self-possession of the speaker.On Indonesian not simply separate but also hierarchize. those who spoke their mother tongue were punished.

which are historically specific forms of power. and thus the resistance to translation among languages. and not fully in possession of or under the control of the individual speaker. what Derrida (1982 [1971]) calls its iterability. Spivak 1992). as crucial to larger projects of historical agency (Jacquemond 1992.Webb Keane in the power relations of colonialism and a more general schism that lies between authentic speech (that of the mother. postcolonial critics commonly insist on particularity or heterogeneity. If the colonial translator worked under assumptions of universality. but an assault on the intimacy of one’s relation to one’s words in a violence both parallel to and serving the violence of colonialism. Thus. for example. The respective language ideologies of the cosmopolitan and the nationalist are equally suspect since the poststructuralist turn in postcolonial studies. But what if one’s own most politically vital identity is constituted through a language whose greatest strengths lie in its supposed distance from the intimacies of the mother tongue? What if that identity even seems to demand a certain willing sacrifice. One of these is the notion that language. which flourished in the early postcolonial world. One Language. One People: From Malay to Indonesian The modernizing projects that have been so central to nationalist movements and postcolonial states therefore reflect certain older anxieties that respond to persistent semiotic features of language. Liu 1995. But by conflating these semiotic properties. consisting of forms external to. cf. which are inescapable characteristics of language. with colonial relations. The essentializing claims common to national historiography and identity politics are marked by their colonial genealogies (Chakrabarty 1992). is a form of violence to human self-presence. the hearth. so too Ngugi’s romantic assimilation of ethnic group to language. and thus transparency among languages. Cosmopolitanism draws indigenous elites into foreign allegiances which may exclude people at home for whom the requisite education and mobility are not available. Mahrez 1992. Niranjana 1992. Since that time. a letting-go. Achebe and Ngugi represent two versions of high modernism. and the decontextualizing effects of writing. The presumption of universal transparency that allows Achebe to assume that the African writer could enter freely into English literature has been thrown into doubt. Kulick 1992)? The Indonesian – 160 – . of one’s first language (cf. complexities and contradictions have become increasingly evident. and both to an originary self-presence. of “real-life struggles” 1994 [1986]: 437) and the general semiotic properties that decenter language – its learnability. he risks making any challenge to actual relations of domination unthinkable or at least unspeakable. Ngugi sees the move between languages to involve not merely political domination whose medium includes language. cosmopolitan and identitarian.

until the twentieth century. Dutch and Javanese rapidly ceased to be serious contenders as languages of the nationalist movement. enforcing grammatical and phonological norms – and introducing vocabulary – that were quite distinct even from the existing practices of most Malay speakers. and Madurese. and it is perhaps a fitting irony that one of the most effective forces for its dissemination – 161 – . being identified directly with neither the colonizer nor any single privileged ethnic group. Propagation was largely a top-down process.2 Malay originated along the Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and the Malay peninsula. often tried to prevent even indigenous elites from speaking it (Groeneboer 1998).” Due in part to the absence of any of the ethnic or political resistance encountered by many postcolonial national languages. For the first half of the twentieth century. one language. The nationalist standardizing project during and after the colonial era continued along similar lines. if nothing else. an effective response to an extreme linguistic situation.On Indonesian case raises questions about what it means to “possess” a language. say. education. the more contested position of Hindi in India – Indonesian is remarkable for its apparent “success. government. The oath committed the movement to one land. the educated elite was far more comfortable in Dutch. one people. Yet compared to. Sundanese. a nationalist movement. a colonial administration. the Dutch never seriously attempted to inculcate their own language as the medium of rule and. and “bahasa Indonesia” was increasingly viewed not just as a useful medium for communication but as an emblem of nationhood. Unlike the British in India and French in Africa. But the choice of Malay for national language was not obvious. formal and most mass-mediated informal communication.3 Dutch colonial policies and practices further reinforced its position across the Indies. The transformation of Malay into the increasingly standardized language of. the official language of nationhood. By the end of the nineteenth century. in contrast to numerically dominant groups such as the Javanese. but by the time Europeans arrived in the area in the fifteenth century it had become a well-established lingua franca from the Moluccas to the Indian Ocean. knowledge and use of Indonesian has spread rapidly in the last fifty years. Instead. and many agreed with their Dutch teachers in considered Malay – ”that preposterous language” (Sutherland 1968: 124) – to be crude and ill-suited for serious undertakings. is a variant of Malay. to translate between that and other languages also felt to be “one’s own” or “others’. From that point. and thus. It was the native language of a small minority. The birth of “Indonesian” under that name is conventionally dated to the Youth Oath of 1928. missionaries and local officials tended to rely on some form of Malay.” Indonesian. Even now some 500 languages are spoken in Indonesia. and a state apparatus and a national culture was. scholars were attempting to produce a standardized “high” variety of the language for administration. 14 of them by over a million speakers each (Steinhauer 1994). by turns.

the distinction between Low Malay and Indonesian can be identified with that between the “local” and the national. such as the 1945 Constitution and later Language Conferences (Halim 1984 [1976]). The rapid increase in centralizing and developmental efforts under Suharto’s New Order regime (1966–1998) greatly expanded the infrastructure for controlling and disseminating the standard through vast expansions of the school system. by projection. Malay speakers’ relationship to Indonesian differs from that of speakers of other local languages only in degree. in metalinguistic and ideological terms. or depth (e. For the switch from a “local” language into Indonesian is. Yet by the 1990s. were highly self-conscious acts of elites attempting to make language the object of their deliberate actions. and for some is felt to lack subtlety.” and “modernizing” the language. “the local language” at the level of practice (see Keane 1997a). indeed. In certain ways. I want to suggest. some speakers of one may not even fully command the other. publishing ventures. By this logic. These two perspectives.Webb Keane was the Japanese occupation during the Second World War. Indonesian is modern in the very processes by which it has come into being. that to switch between them is a highly marked discursive move. therefore.” the projection of ideological oppositions from one level to another.” This may be a function of a common productive aspect of linguistic ideology. But these variants are often so distinct from Indonesian. Official Cosmopolitanism According to the scholar Ariel Heryanto (1995). Under the Japanese. and television. both linguistically and ideologically. it is the Indonesian language more than anything else that gives substance to the idea of there being a national culture at all. Anwar 1980: 1). Indonesian had come by many of its speakers to be identified with an oppressive state apparatus. what Judith Irvine and Susan Gal (2000) have described as “fractal recursivity. In this way Indonesian’s authority and alterity may impose themselves over even “native” speakers of closely related variants of Malay (see Kumanireng 1982). The major landmarks in the subsequent rise of Indonesian. distinct from other kinds of “code switching. beauty. In this light. along with the private and the public. use of Dutch was prohibited and Indonesian promoted as the chief medium of schooling and propaganda – even the talking bird in the Batavia zoo was retrained to greet ladies in Indonesian instead of Dutch (Wertheim 1964). interpreting and reinforcing at the plane of ideology Malay speakers’ experiences of both Indonesian and. “improving. From the 1920s there also began a growth in self-conscious efforts to produce an Indonesian literature in publishing ventures marked by strenuous efforts at standardizing. Many non-standard varieties of spoken Malay flourish across the archipelago (Collins 1980). and its heavy-handed models of development. its ideologies.g. are two faces of the – 162 – .

The ubiquity of taboo and avoidance vocabularies. plurilingual societies have always involved movement among linguistic varieties. a mark of sophistication. national. however. If anything has become clear since the fall of Suharto. official. and international planes. an emblem of modernity and cosmopolitanism. it bears a distinct social. It is the language most appropriate for public. political. apart from abstractions like statehood and rationality. The question remains open whether Indonesian can be detached from the hegemony of school and officialdom or whether its promised virtues are inseparable from the sense of flatness and alienation so often imputed to it. This movement can be habitual and unconscious but also subject to highly self-aware actions and forms of linguistic self-objectification (Voloshinov 1973 [1930]. It is too soon to predict how this standardizing project will fare in post-New Order Indonesia. The uses of Indonesian tend to follow the patterns of register or code-switching familiar from other high. nor even in being an object of metalinguistic awareness and ideology. the peculiarly “modern” character of Indonesian in its ideological attributes and practical functions. But there is no reason to assume that the centralizing project of the state has been fully effective. ritual speech forms. As such they are meant to impose ordering effects on uses of the language in other situations. official. however. What for the romantic nationalist may seem to be liabilities. all function in the same way or open up the same sets of possibilities. For the vast majority of the population at the beginning of the twenty-first century. After all. and technological settings and topics. These are contexts in which the capacity of the language to index other contexts. respect registers.On Indonesian same thing. educated. it is that we should be wary of taking the attempt for the result. and cognitive status. Schools. and official documents attempt quite explicitly to authorize the standard’s claims. a vehicle for translation among local.4 These contexts and associations may not. acquired after a “local language. see Lucy 1993). Hierarchy and Internal Translation The modernity of Indonesian does not lie in the mere fact of being a marked linguistic alternative to some “prior” language. speeches.” Even when linguistically close to that first language. and a medium for speaking across social distance. It is the perceived otherness of Indonesian that makes it particularly well-suited as a language for national and personal development. such as the lack of deep historical roots in a core population group. national. secretive jargons and so forth shows the ubiquity of a capacity to step into a language perceived as markedly apart from ordinary speech. is suppressed. of mass media and the economically higher-order marketplaces. and national languages. Marked linguistic varieties can – 163 – . have for most of the history of Indonesian nationalism been virtues. Indonesian remains a clearly defined second language.

Webb Keane be highly productive. with profoundly decentering implications for the speaker’s sense of having an “own” language. and taking on many of the social functions of “high” Javanese. a persistence of the authority of “exemplary centers” characteristic of much older Javanese and other Southeast Asian forms of hierarchy. commonly by putting the materiality of signifiers in the foreground. the marked category is the speech of seriousness. and perhaps bits of Hokkien. Benedict Anderson (1990a [1966]. Thus. One register forms the unmarked category. acronyms. These functions. Against it. With these resources to draw on. by contrast Indonesian is ideologically supposed to open outward. maleness. Indonesian thus differs from earlier forms of “internal translation” in its links to the modernist and cosmopolitan aspirations that underwrote its emergence. its vision of referential transparency. especially in Javanese. however. may go beyond the strategic play of status and exclusion. formality. Despite its deep roots in Old Malay. often. remnants of scriptural Sanskrit. Rather. as in punning. the region is well known for certain highly elaborated register differences. It is this analogy of Indonesian to other such forms of register-shifting. often conceptualized as the speech of casual relations and intimacy figured as that between mother and child (Siegel 1986). “Internal translation” (Zurbuchen 1989) is the hallmark of traditional Javanese and Balinese performance.” “middle” and “low” Javanese. 1997) has argued that Indonesian is functionally similar to “high” Javanese in that children learn to replace what they would have said in their original language with words imposed from without. adulthood and. Central Java is especially famous for its elaborate register differences by which minute distinctions of social hierarchy are marked by lexical choices among the vocabulary sets of “high. see Hooker 1993) pointed out that within a generation of independence. in which archaic languages steeped in Sanskritic vocabulary alternate with commentaries in contemporary idioms that permit audiences to follow the action. Crossroads like the Indonesian archipelago have long been swept by linguistic currents and even the relatively hegemonic monologism of precolonial central Java was permeated with words and phrases of Arabic. formal Indonesian had appropriated so much foreign and archaistic vocabulary that it was growing increasingly incomprehensible to all but the elite. and the fact that it presents itself as an alternative to hierarchical registers. James Siegel (1986. But if taboo and slang languages aim to create barriers within relatively more open language varieties. and so forth. Errington (2000) has argued that this is part of an alternative kind of linguistic authority to that of the rationalist modernist standard. that has stimulated some of the most insightful contemporary interpretations of the national language. drawing on speakers’ metalinguistic awareness to create new forms. Malay. Indonesian has not generally called on primordialist ideologies for its legitimacy. it has – 164 – . To speak the high language is thus to display the suppression of the low (as retrospectively construed).

As a late colonial-era Javanese guide to etiquette advised.On Indonesian always been portrayed as modern. too close. Nobles in early twentieth-century Sumba. Thus the common assertion that Indonesian – like Swahili (Fabian 1986) and Hindi (Cohn 1996 [1985]) – is an “easy” language (Anwar 1989. Moeliono 1994) expresses a degree of ambivalence: its supposed lack of subtlety and depth is inseparable from its accessibility. the very practices through which Indonesian emerged bear the marks of language ideologies that are linked to ideas of modernity. But if you cannot speak that language. As one Javanese man recalled of the late colonial era. in principle. what language should your answer be in? Use the language of the questioner.” it was a good way to speak with a friend. which was seen as a function of – 165 – . or too condescending (Errington 1985: 60).” it does not. Indonesian even today is widely perceived to lack two things that other languages are supposed to have (but in this respect. Free. treating language as a set of arbitrary signs that are subject to self-liberating forms of human agency. exclude any potential speakers. The very lack of status markers that they avoided was something that others sought. use Malay” (quoted in Errington 1985: 59). avoided Malay as being a demeaning “language of merchants” (Wielenga 1913: 144). although Malay “lacked intimacy. This was one source of the perception that Indonesian was vulgar. since it failed to provide speakers with clear positions of hierarchy relative to one another. not too distant. but its promise of escape from register systems altogether. Unlike a Herderian language of the “people. the use of Indonesian seems to reach for this neutrality and freedom from hierarchy. This is more than a matter of explicit claims on its behalf. the lack of centers was taken to be an advantage. for instance. cf Silverstein 1996). Egalitarian and Vulgar In the early decades of the twentieth century. it perhaps only displays openly what is ideologically obscured for other languages). the elites typically considered Malay a vulgar language. The value of Indonesian was not a mere matter of conveying denotations across linguistic boundaries. The modernity and rationality imputed to Indonesian produced its supposed egalitarianism. “If you are asked a question by someone. As I have noted. Lacking a presumed “center. At least in the early years. But in the heyday of modernist nationalism. Spatially and socially demarcated linguistic centers enable speakers to measure their linguistic correctness – or failings. and as a vehicle for the modernization of Indonesian subjects and society. It is not commonly perceived to possess either a clear social-geographical “center” or exemplary “best” speakers (Goenawan 1982: 321. But both the apparent crudity and the foreignness of Malay were also sources of its appeal.” Indonesian by contrast is supposed to be open to all.

and letters to editors. What is remarkable is that this ease is granted not by the speaker’s intuitive and habitual mastery of a first language. Unlike one’s mother tongue. To the extent that it is seen to be non-natural and “external” to the actor. the move into Indonesian is meant to avoid the overt display of status – 166 – . self-conscious. Not surprisingly. the sense of otherness remains a component of its modernity. Writing for the World In the egalitarian aspirations of early Indonesian nationalists and many speakers today as well. this “ease” is reportedly less a matter of linguistic code than of interaction. The formal learning process and the association with writing encourage a sense that one ought to have an active. that humans can and must take their destiny in their own hands. pamphlets. but by the conscious control associated with the second. Indonesian is commonly portrayed as incomplete. In 1948. he said that the task of the young Indonesian is “culture creation (Dutch cultuurscheppen). a crucial figure in forging language policy. attacked nationalist primordialism by asserting that Indonesia is a creation of the twentieth century (Takdir Alisjahbana 1977 [1948]: 14–15). and rational control over this language. Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana. language is also. Both language and speaker would thus need improvement. Writing in an Indonesian sprinkled with Dutch words.Webb Keane its apparent “ease. the risks concern the projected self and its presupposed others. To these ends. in principle. one’s language should be improved. which I have taken to be central to ideologies of modernity. From the beginning (Adam 1995). a combination of personal and national anxiety captured in the book title Have You Sufficiently Cultivated Our Language of Unity? (Tjokronegoro 1968). in view of the notion. Indonesian usage and vocabulary has been the subject of advice columns. in contrast to the relatively unself-conscious mastery of one’s mother tongue (Kumanireng 1982). Even if Indonesian failed to sustain this egalitarian promise through the New Order period (1965–1998). Indeed. The ordinary experience of learning Indonesian and the critical discourses surrounding it reproduce one of the central features of its supposed modernity. This sets up Indonesian as peculiarly the object of metalinguistic discourses and fosters the notion that it can be subject to purposeful manipulation. But this effort is not restricted to the state. erecting a new culture in accordance with the passion of the spirit and age” (1977 [1948]: 16). the plethora of public criticism seems to have produced insecurity. its speakers feeling their command to be imperfect.” For young Javanese. available as an object of manipulation. the privileged role of rational human agency. at least. the state since its inception has been actively working to foster “good and true” (baik dan benar) Indonesian.

one might replace the everyday form sakit (ill) with high Javanese gering.On Indonesian differences. in effect. there have been many experiments in replacing those most fraught elements. should work in collaboration with its egalitarian promise: both presume an ability to transcend the limits of interactive contexts. lexicalized – indexes of status. be free to become cosmopolitan and egalitarian (see Gal and Woolard 1995). it would seem. In effect. and so forth. Here’s one: Indonesian was supposed to replace the social hierarchies built into local languages with a modern egalitarianism. It does so by seeking a language beyond any particular culture. as a modern language. this means a language supposedly abstractable from interactive contexts and the cultural presuppositions they invoke. expressions presupposing local knowledge. this aims to remove words from the cultural context that made them indexical of status differences or other aspects of interaction and locality. be no puns. such as the Quaker refusal to say you in seventeenth-century England. Linguistic innovation thereby is supposed to fulfill the early nationalist project of eliminating the more “feudal” elements of local culture. or makan (to eat) with dahar to indicate respect without necessarily implying adherence to the entire register system of Javanese. for instance. As in other language-reform movements. Indonesian takes advantage of the alternatives afforded by preexisting register differences. There should. This is evident even in simple lexical innovation. performative. say. and poetic dimensions of language in favor of reference and semantics – an emphasis that seems to be endemic to ideologies of the public sphere (Warner 2002: 83). In contrast to the workings of. According to Minister of Education and Culture Daoed Joesoef (1983). A language removed from the supposed restrictions and hierarchies of localized cultural contexts should. this aspect of idea of modernity might even. imply an urge to escape from semiotic mediation itself (Keane 2001). Thus the transparency and translatability of Indonesian. proper nouns in which semantic sense clashes with sense-less reference. taboo languages or underworld slangs. difficulties of phrasing due to syntactic peculiarities. deictics with specific topographical anchors. denies the indexical. pronouns indexical of interaction-relative status. It should aspire (however impossibly) to eliminate those aspects of meaning that might be altered when repeated in different contexts. For example. significant rhymes. In practice. the most direct attack seemed to be to eliminate the most obvious – that is. or that might be lost in translation. should seek to render its denotative functions transparent and work against the materiality of signifiers. a modern national standard. phrases with magical powers. in this view. In common with some religious utopias. at the extreme. Pragmatic Paradoxes of the Public This story contains many ironies. first and second person – 167 – .5 To that end. Such abstraction.

for instance. The fact that anda has met very limited acceptance in spoken interaction suggests how difficult it is to inhabit so abstract a social position. however. in some respects the paradox may be implicit in some modernist visions of freedom to the extent that they couple enhanced agency with increased control over an object world. the effort to create a national public through language reform either failed (by producing an exclusive – 168 – . and an ever-growing number of opaque acronyms. I want to suggest this may be due. The elites of the New Order increasingly laid exclusive claims over the language through the proliferation of Javanisms. Goenawan says this is because the authoritarian climate of the Suharto regime made individualism seem dangerous.Webb Keane pronouns. By the time of the New Order regime. but it does not explain why the supposedly neutral and egalitarian aku should have those particular connotations. In political terms. has always been an option in multilingual situations) but to improve it. in the choice to step out of – even to sacrifice – one language and not only to speak another one (this. resulting in ambivalences and anxieties that are far from resolved (see Siegel 1997). Among the attempted reforms. The conscious choice of this word seeks not only to dislodge the speaker from existing social relations. This is surely true. to its associations with certain aspects of the modernist project. Sanskritisms. Overall. a medium whose most powerful claims on its speakers included the promise of liberation. Indeed. second. it seemed a heroic challenge to hierarchy. According to Goenawan Mohamad (1995). the weight this put on the sheer materiality of signifiers as well as their capacity to index access to restricted sources of knowledge was a direct threat to the cosmopolitan openness of a transparent language that had been sought by high modernists. at least in part. in semiotic terms. the cosmopolitan aspirations of Indonesian faced a conjoined set of paradoxes. One may hear echoes of a common theme in early Indonesian literature (as in much nationalist and early postcolonial writing). and the supposedly neutral anda coined in the 1950s has found its true home as the term for the universal addressee of advertising and public announcements. what had begun as a rationalist effort to escape the indexical links to interaction and localized contexts had itself become a meta-discursive index in its own right. By the 1990s. And. the once-intimate word aku was promoted as the preferred first person singular of literary writing. when the poet Chairil Anwar used it in the 1940s. to claim a public persona markedly apart from some presupposed prior self and its social relations. This autonomy is manifested in the speaker’s agency relative to language itself. had become deeply associated with the centralizing project of the authoritarian state. and in the process. Anglicisms. but also asserts a modernist claim to personal autonomy. after all. the world of his or her birth. kinship. the clash between modern urban freedom and the constraints of village. For second person. it had come to sound arrogant and egotistical. one occasionally encounters people who use the English you. As critics of such usages made apparent. and tradition.

As a modernist project. or interactive contexts. Seeking their recognition begins by his own effort to recognize who they might be (say. however covertly. thus retains a certain modernist austerity and even heroism. As a dominant language ideology. as if to deny the modernists’ claims for transparency. and entails a degree of risk – that.g. least confined to particular geographical.On Indonesian and controlling “high” language of the state) or succeeded only ambiguously (by offering speakers only the most notional public identities and constrained rhetorical possibilities). Recall the anecdote with which this essay began: Amien Rais at his most authoritatively public. continue to emerge outside the officially constituted “public” (e. Second. they may not recognize him for who he would be for them. notably. new vernaculars. Sukarno himself (Leclerc 1994) – imagine and take on the perspective of his most distant potential interlocutors. it ties the project of asserting historical agency to a more problematic one of mastery over language itself – a tie that. however betrayed and disappointed. historical. By the same token. So functionally reductive and objectified a view of language would seem to presuppose and promote the self-possession of subjects for whom nothing important eludes translation and everything can be made explicit. Yet wordplay. as it unravels. They commonly focus on the materiality of linguistic form. founding a national party in a moment of historical crisis. the process of associating language with projects of development and especially with literary culture entails not just an obvious elitism. Zimmer 1998). most open to being understood from within other languages. to the extent that it aspires to the most textual and most translatable pole of language. this vision of Indonesian. subordinate to immaterial denotations and the intentions of those who could somehow stand apart from it. national identity commonly seeks culture in language that one can stand outside of. failing to translate his words correctly. and even growing Islamicist uses of Arabic. To the extent that the project of asserting historical agency retains its genealogical ties to ideologies of the modern. Chambert-Loir 1984. Perhaps we can see in these hints of alternatives to engineered standardization that may yet emerge. To do so requires that he – like. American political observers). Widodo 1997. – 169 – . but a certain disembedding of what a national “culture” could mean. finding there not something that escapes translation – something one could call uniquely one’s “own” – but that which is most translatable. subversive slangs. the standard language as an emblem of national culture and political identity seems to depend on an ability to take the materiality of semiotic form to be plastic matter. Such openness to other languages through translation would seem to render problematic the nationalist claim to “possess” that language for oneself (while avoiding the potentially dangerous politics of language and ethnicity that “possession” can invite). it seems to exist in a paradoxical relation to the claims of national cultural identity in two respects. seems to aspire to a cosmopolitan transparency. First. may yet unleash new possibilities.

and the University of Michigan Humanities Institute. 2.8 percent Javanese and 15. Thanks to Pete Becker. 3. Moeliono 1994. Yopie Prins. and Michigan. they were subsumed within an objectivistic ideology by which language was seen to function primarily to refer to and denote an external world. For a succinct statement linking proper choice of first person pronoun and the “anti-feudal principle of democracy” see Ali 2000: 153–6.” In Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory: A Reader. Wolff and Poedjosoedarmo 1982. References Achebe. Princeton. the Association for Asian Studies annual meeting.6 percent Sundanese [Hooker 1993: 273.9 percent of the population of the Indies spoke Malay as their native language. In the process. and Amrih Widodo. Vince Rafael. Teeuw 1973. Post-independence censuses show those claiming Indonesian as their first language as 12 percent in 1980 and 15. compared to 47. and at the Universities of Chicago. Oetomo 1987. In 1928. I am grateful for support from the Institute for Advanced Study. Henk Schulte Nordholt. 1989. Sue Gal. Beth Povinelli. for their comments. whether the linguistic distinctions between them matter ideologically is highly context-dependent. Maier 1993. See the sociolinguistic accounts in Errington 1998.Webb Keane Notes 1. Bahasa Indonesia. Joe Errington. NJ. 5. Acknowledgments Earlier versions of this chapter were presented at a Wenner-Gren Conference on Translation and Anthropology. Columbia. Mellie Ivy. Goenawan Mohamad. Kumanireng 1982. and owe something to less formal conversations in the Michicagoan Linguistic Anthropology Faculty Workshop. Steinhauer 1994]).” is a variant of Malay. Chinua. Hoffman 1979. Rudolph Mrázek. Nancy Florida. Lee Schlesinger. On the problem of pronouns and Indonesian national identity see Benedict Anderson (1990a) and James Siegel (1997). Mühlhäusler 1996: 205. Pramoedya 1963. John Pemberton. 1997. Cornell. 1977. about 4.5 percent in 1990 (compared to 38. Ariel Heryanto. Patrick Williams and Laura – 170 – . For the history of Indonesian see Anwar 1980. literally “the language of Indonesia. Takdir 1957. 4. Henk Maier. By reducing the options among even those pronouns available in Malay (Errington 1998). “The African Writer and the English Language.5 per cent Sundanese (Moeliono 1994: 378). standard Indonesian has sought to deny their social implications.8 percent speaking Javanese and 14.

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The general practice of orientalists in recent years has been to adopt one of the various sets of conventional signs for the letters and vowel marks of the Arabic alphabet. transliterating Mohamed as Muhammad. 21) In the back matter of the book. which gives the dates of his movements in Arabia in 1917–18. he adds. (p. in a Preface prepared by the author’s brother A. for their consonants are not the same as ours. The same place-name will be found spelt in different ways. but a wash-out for the world. W. W. helpful to people who know enough Arabic not to need helping. to prevent my appearing an adherent of one of the existing ‘systems of transliteration’. and their vowels. in Appendix II (p. “Arabic names are spelt anyhow. then anticipates his brother’s remark as he goes on to say that. There are some “scientific systems” of transliteration. like ours. and that some of the consonants have no equivalents in English.” James Clifford (1990: 58) I Included in the front matter of Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1935). E. 664). This method is useful to those who know what it means. Lawrence (p. I spell my names anyhow. is a quoted remark by T. to show what rot the systems are. A. W.. 20) had calmly explained that only three vowels are recognized in Arabic. but this book follows the old fashion of writing the best phonetic approximations according to ordinary English spelling. Lawrence about his spelling of the many Arabic names that appear in his book: Arabic names won’t go into English.–7– Notes on Transliteration Brinkley Messick “Transcription always raises questions about translation. vary from district to district. muezzin as mu’edhdhin.” Before quoting his brother in the Preface. not only because the sound of many Arabic words can legitimately be represented in English in a variety – 177 – . A. exactly. and Koran as Qur’an or Kur’an.

Also quoted in the brother’s Preface are some samples of behind-the-scenes exchanges between the publisher and the author in connection with the production of an abbreviated version of the book (known as Revolt in the Desert. I could refer to the Dutch translations (into French) for my work on basic Shafi`i texts. which historically has followed two different schools of law. The much longer but also conventional prose commentary works have not been translated. belongs to the ‘chief family of the Rualla’. In my research on highland Yemen. 1927). Thus French scholars mainly concentrated on texts from the Maliki school of law predominant in North Africa. The pattern of target texts for these earlier translations of Islamic legal manuals generally followed the interests of the Orientalists’ respective colonial regimes. I shall return to examine some disciplinary versions of such remarks. English scholars on the Hanafi school adhered to by Indian Muslims.” The publisher: “Jeddah and Jidda used impartially throughout. often stripped-down in expression. Intentional?” Lawrence: “Rather!” The publisher: “Nuri.” and to “Sherif Abd el Mayin of Slip 68 becomes el Main. “Good egg. and sometimes even rhymed to facilitate memorization.” To “The Bisaita is also spelt Biseita.” Lawrence replies. ‘Rualla horse’. and Slip 38. “Good. el Mayein.” the author counters. which flourished only in uncolonized highland Yemen. was Jedhad on Slip 40. Messick 1993).” Later.” Lawrence says. On Slip 23. the she-camel. “Should have also used Ruwala and Ruala. which take the published form of the “note on transliteration. Emir of the Ruwalla. I call this really ingenious. texts which typically are very brief.” are found “full of inconsistencies in the spelling of proper names. and Dutch scholars on the Shafi`i school followed by Muslims in Java and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. but also because the natives of a district often differ as to the pronunciation of any place-name which has not already become famous or fixed by literary usage. my translations could in some instances draw on prior Orientalist efforts that date to the nineteenth century and earlier. but there was no equivalent translation for the authoritative text of the indigenous school of law.” the reply is. The publisher gives a list of queries raised in reading the proofs which.” to “Jedha. ‘killed one Rueli’.” II Translations from Arabic to English are a routine aspect of my work on the various textual genres of Islamic law. The main genre translated was the authoritative basic instructional manual of each of the law schools. el Muein. When focused primarily on doctrinal texts (e. – 178 – .Brinkley Messick of ways. In all later slips ‘Rualla’.g. and el Muyein. el Mayin. “She was a splendid beast. although otherwise “very clean.

that of the judgments issued in shari`a court cases. and in part because I find a direct assault on the phenomenon of translation daunting. Both are techniques of the “trans. I am constantly aware of two mundane pulls: between accuracy in rendering this distinctive legal Arabic and accessibility for the reader of English. These begin with such spatial interventions as the creation of sentences. I translate large segments of the judgment texts. there was a sense of scientific progress in Orientalist translations. cutting across this colonial patterning in the incidence of translations.” of the relations and movements between languages. or not. These already weighty issues taken into consideration. and for which reasons. Also. where neither capital letters nor periods or other such punctuation exists in the Arabic text. in which punctuation is standard. and it is my ultimate hope that in this chapter an – 179 – .Notes on Transliteration Over about a century and a half. Few of these have been translated in any region of the Muslim world. A persistent problem in such translations was the unquestioned use of Western legal terms as the translations of Islamic ones. the mere technique. and in my own work the explication of such Islamic concepts has been a central activity. Similar issues are raised by my occasionally creating paragraphs. III In part because I do not produce integral translations of texts. This practice takes two very distinct forms. my judgment texts are continuous in the original. Unlike the modern Arabic of the printed newspaper or book. known by the related terms transcription and transliteration. As I translate. and punctuated pauses within sentences. of rendering single foreign-language words or phrases in an English language text. Roughly characterized. When doing so. I not only create a print version of a handwritten original but my English translations make implicitly vowelled “readings” of the unvowelled (and sometimes also unpointed) Arabic original. In examining such features as the structure of competing legal narratives. the detailed devices for the quotation or indirect reporting of evidential testimony and the textual markers of an authoritative legal record. The Yemeni texts are in handwritten Arabic on vertical paper rolls. I also work at a very different generic level of the law. I will address what may be considered the comparatively minor practice. I employ a series of seemingly mechanical presentation devices which also may be understood as deeply transformative in their own right (see Chartier 1992). I then might reflect on whether. my English versions are relatively faithful. the movement was from early renderings marked by loose paraphrase to a form of rigor that required that a single word must be the consistent translation of a given Arabic term and that any additional words or phrases necessitated in the Western language (to make regular sense of the extremely concise Islamic manuals) would now be set off in parentheses.

their geographies. by design. in the process. however. then a distinctive difference is clear between translation and its relatives. construct a bridge between two languages.” at least not in the complex manner of translation. translation. at least independently. Received into an adapted English letter system. a line to be quoted. In this sense. in a halfway stage of language. These techniques would seem to raise none of the thorny “meaning” issues of translation: they do not dramatically carry meaning “across. transcription and transliteration. or rather. which must drop away or be hidden in the finished product. it belongs to a special intermediate language of its own. transcriptions and transliterations might be thought of analytically as the scaffolding for translation. The trajectory of such movements commences with the excerpting of the text to be reported. In the process. whereas in transcription and transliteration these relations are revealed and even foregrounded. The foreign word or phrase has been excerpted and inserted but. and in their mechanical faithfulness they also seem to avoid the dangerous traditore in traduttore. or translated. for example. between two worlds. arriving in its new location. – 180 – . Compared with the total transformation wrought by translation across languages. the movements carried out by transcription and transliteration appear stalled or interrupted. In this sense.Brinkley Messick understanding of their restricted work across languages may shed some light on that of their more formidable relative-by-prefix. seemingly eradicating its physical traces. The transcribed or transliterated text remains suspended between languages and belonging properly to neither. transcription and transliteration actively preserve such traces and. the reported text both retains certain connecting filaments and resonances with its original textual site and also assumes new attachments and significances in the reporting text. having neither completely departed from the reported language nor completely arrived in the reporting language. even simple quotation within the same language begins to have some of the character of translation between languages. While translation tends to leave the other language behind. specifically. into the language of the reporting text.” Bakhtin (1986) has discussed the analytic relations surrounding intertextual movements.” the relations between reported texts and reporting texts. remains not fully transformed. It concludes with its insertion in a new textual location in the reporting text. and thus partially domesticated. the relations between the reported and reporting languages are obscured. temporalities and metaphysics. one considers the relation between a reported language and a reporting language. This special language never exists as such. In translation. If. As part of his “translinguistics. from its original source or context. in the analogous realm of interlanguage movements. The resulting fragments are left betwixt and between. the foreign fragment nevertheless retains its identity as a fragment of another language. in what is termed “reported speech.

It is rare to see a transcribed or transliterated text stand on its own two feet. and in publication this adoption is implicit. we usually also get a view of the author’s sub-disciplinary identity.” IV Transcribe: trans + scribere (write) Transliterate: trans + litera (letter) I have referred thus far to the two techniques. as examples of the same phenomenon. identified and specified by its characteristic meta-site. and the same lower-case Roman numerals. One exception.” or “pretext. the textual locale where it is spoken of. is a book of foreign-language texts in which the medium of conveyance or instruction is the system. I taught Moroccan Berbers to read Berber folktales published in transcription.” the comparatively staid and predictable “Acknowledgments. by contrast. “Notes” on transcription and transliteration characterize the about-to-be-introduced.” as exposed. – 181 – . they reveal an irreverent personality. however. This special language or system is marked. that is. as in the case of Lawrence and some others to be sampled below. Additionally.g. Where transcription is a practice of written entities. of full passages and their dynamics. Both “notes” on transcription or transliteration and those on translation partake. by Derrida (1974) and his translator. Some dictionaries (e. special in-between language or system which is to represent a particular foreign language as it appears from time to time within the standard language of the work in question. or language. Are they the same? One distinction may be suggested by their respective Latin etymologies. Fabian (1992: 86–88) describes the reoralization of a deficiently transliterated Shaba Swahili text as a step prior to translation. In a scholarly article. Webster’s Third International) have them as synonyms. Such “notes” have their own (admittedly minor) generic history and they might be compared with those that pertain to statements about translations found in approximately the same locale. with little attention to interrelations. such notes sometimes permit authors to speak directly to us or.Notes on Transliteration but is only given rise to in the interstices of two languages. of individual letters. of transcription or transliteration. but such texts characteristically remain in the background of research. of the enigmatic problematic of the “preface. which typically takes the form of a brief “note” in the front-matter of a book. of course. occasionally including some irascibility or wittiness. the text already has to have passed into the system used by the journal in question. transliteration is one of pieces or parts. for example. Spivak. How much more interesting such notes can be than that other minor passage of the “pretext. When this formal system is characterized by a scholar. Other instances arise when anthropologists develop special languages with their informants. transcription and transliteration.

a sense of scientific refinement and advance.” Parallel to these histories. 1986: 116–7. In their practice. it was an activity of reading.1 It is the name also for the characteristic method subsequently employed by linguistic anthropologists for recording an oral text from an unwritten language. As such.g. originally to AD and now to CE years).” In scholarly writing. At issue is the need to produce a final product with legitimating or confirming “evidence” in the form of a reported passage from the other language in question. transcription is the original technique (see Clifford 1983: 135–42. on the part of the anthropologist. crossed-out. interlinear and standard English. In both genealogies there are histories of competing systems and.Brinkley Messick In the usage of anthropologists. rewritten ones that were published on pages facing translations of different types. from the Muslim lunar calendar. transcription and transliteration figure as elements in historically specific forms of “ethnographic authority. transliterated words or phrases usually appear following their English translation. Transcription’s pedigree leads to the universalizing aims of linguistics. and then of writing. and also the histories of such detailed related techniques as date conversion (e. it is an activity of trained hearing. 1990: 51. Transliteration techniques were developed by these textual specialists to represent the written texts of another language. which also have their own histories (e. are the general and specific histories of the scientific refinement of scholarly translation. transcription and transliteration are elements in what was known as a book’s “scholarly apparatus. the specialists in non-Western written texts. Transliteration. which. It was elaborated in the early professional method of “text-taking. the footnote. 57–9). Transliteration pertains to the philological sciences and involves not a universal system but a series of particular (even idiosyncratic) ones. but their genealogies go back to different sciences. or gloss. including the presentation of photos. “heard” transcriptions of the fieldnote stage and the polished. by contrast. in turn. involves the author’s sub-disciplinary (scientific) identity. and the aim of accurate renderings of “any” sequence of speech.” by Franz Boas and others. Both techniques have “scientific” roots. When longer texts – normally poetry in my field of – 182 – . is a relatively new technique for anthropologists. of course. the two techniques of transcription and transliteration often are closely associated with translations. There were both the rough. For Boas. What are the designs of such usages? To what ends are the techniques employed? This depends on the particular authority claimed by a given reporting text. Together with such discipline-marking techniques as systems of citation and referencing. to such tools as the International Phonetic Alphabet. transcriptions were steppingstones to translations. Grafton 1997). Like many other devices. over time. In the orientalist tradition. and its technical lineage is traced not to linguistics but to the orientalists. designed to represent particular languages. then of writing.g.” as linguistic traces of “being there.

” for example.” The “dj” here for the Arabic letter jim is an example of a transliteration found only in this encyclopedia. In notes on transliteration it is common to find statements concerning certain words from the other language that have crossed over into full reception in English. Typically such receptions are explicitly authorized by reference to entries in dictionaries. these and their accompanying translations usually are placed in an appendix. J. the Library of Congress is carrying out the transliteration of foreign titles. Revealing now my own sub-disciplinary lineage. April 4. At the same time. its system cannot be forgotten by experts. V There are three major systems of transliterating Arabic. the International Journal of Middle East Studies (Cambridge). especially with the streamlining of its transliteration that has occurred with the computerization of its catalogue entries. Increasingly. One recalls. is lost in the scientific advance of digitalization. The Encyclopedia of Islam system is the most venerable and also the quirkiest. I turn from attempting a history of transcription. and it is now rarely adopted as such. the Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: E. with which I have some experience. Nicholson Baker’s “Discards” article (The New Yorker. in most other systems it is now simply represented by a “j. New disciplinary engagements with societies with writing have led to new methods and new requirements concerning the reporting of written texts. Brill) and IJMES. They also usually occur in a formation of letters that is correct neither – 183 – . Where publishers will happily print translations they tend to resist publishing extended transcribed or transliterated texts. however. or Persian or Turkish word. however. The rise of sophisticated transliteration among anthropologists interests me as an indicator of interdisciplinary movements toward the study of written texts. pp. for every one of the authoritative articles in nine massive volumes (and counting) of the second edition has a title that is a transliteration of an Arabic. to a closer focus on transliteration. and these have drawn critically on the long-established techniques of the orientalists and their successors in the fields of area studies. those of the Library of Congress. especially the hand annotations of generations of specialist librarians. which I do not know first hand. 1994.Notes on Transliteration research on the Middle East – are transliterated. you have to know to turn to “masdjid. This has occurred partly in connection with the discipline’s historical and linguistic turns. 64–86) and the potential he identifies of unexpected losses as the older work.” giving masjid. To consult the article on “mosque. with the last now the standard in most quarters. The Library of Congress system is on the march. work that had been central to the job descriptions of specialist librarians.

and the use of transcription thereafter mainly was reserved for. anthropologists used transcriptions adapted from colloquial language dictionaries written by linguists. to the printing of Arabic texts in the West and.Brinkley Messick in transcription nor in transliteration. reported foreign words are often underlined and fully marked with diacritics. In the post-Boasian. the first among them the fact that Arabic was the original example language in the study of diglossia (Ferguson 1959). Mid-century anthropology was a discipline devoted. colloquial Arabic posed some particular problems. – 184 – .” With such understandings. and. later. “the historian is given a text and the anthropologist has to construct one” (Asad 1986: 144). only when they first appear in the text. At first. As a “field” language. Sometimes there is something of a specialist crusade in support of correctness: Muslim now has made solid inroads against Moslem. as opposed to French. and no regular conventions exist for representing spoken forms of Arabic in written Arabic itself. in the case of Arabic. scientific-modern tradition of Margaret Mead (see the 1939–1940 exchange between Lowie and Mead in the American Anthropologist). It often is difficult to ascertain the register of Arabic being dealt with. the history of the advent of print in the Middle East (cf. Such editorial conventions adopted by scholars and academic presses also involve a history that. At about the middle of the twentieth century and for a couple of decades thereafter. For anthropologists. formally transliterated. Thus we find Mecca preferred by scholars over the technically correct Makka. as if received in the English of the book in question. translate texts the way the translator does. if no longer exclusively to peoples without writing. may be linked to the reproduction of Arabic script in Western academic works. likewise. Messick 1993. 1997). without either italics or diacritics. in the case of North Africa and it was historians and literature specialists who worked with written Arabic. Arabic had the status of a “field” language. transcription was replaced by early attempts to employ systems of transliteration. or “the ethnographer does not . After this they appear unmarked. versus Koran. the anthropologist learned the spoken language during the first few months in the “field. anthropological field workers in the Middle East and North Africa exclusively used colloquial languages. then at least to spoken forms of culture within literate civilizations. Rapidly. for example. however. and Quran (or Qur’an). This was the era of the disciplinary distinction between spoken “field” languages and written “research” languages. . In specialist texts. the disciplinary identities of historian and anthropologist could be retrospectively glossed by statements such as. The two basic features of the various spoken Arabic dialects were their variable distances from written forms (of several levels and types) and from each other. While the vowels are “incorrect” in such system terms they tend to make fuller use of the vowel structure of English. Beijing supplanting Peking is probably the same phenomenon in the reporting of Chinese. . He must first produce them” (Crapanzano 1986: 57). further back in time. 6. that is. ch.

No transliteration system existed for any form of spoken Arabic. however. including those of major disciplinary figures such as Evans-Pritchard. VI Has the spirit of T. most authors deploy their “note” mainly to report on the system adopted. and Calverly q_d_. and Geertz. native speakers and writers of Arabic who are becoming anthropologists also must learn proper transliteration lest their work be judged deficient in language terms.Notes on Transliteration and marked. and also of written Arabic itself. I begin with the mid-century remarks of Carlton S. to the majority of readers the frequent recurrence of this – 185 – . Gellner. together with glimpses of distressed authorial personalities. Coon begins. physical anthropologist and generalist author of the classic introduction. a dot under a consonant or a macron over a vowel are matters of utmost importance. and yet I cannot find complete agreement among them. I have tried to simplify as much as possible and have consequently left out the letter `Ain. Coon. “So what?” – but the lay reader does not review these books. Gibb. Hitti spells it q_di. No one could feel less scholarly than I do. which is a basic ingredient in judging scholarly achievement. “Any transliteration of Arabic words leads to dispute. A contemporary irony is that as the discipline becomes ever more demanding in terms of required language skills. ethnographer. a specifically linguistic type of inquiry. The presence or absence of a dot under the k will distinguish between the word for “heart” and that for “dog. three men whose erudition and integrity are of the highest order. and when anthropologists made a shift to the systems of the written language specialists. and Calverly.” Only a heartless dog would countenance such confusion. This becomes particularly evident when the subject of Arabic transliteration arises.” (1951: v). Caravan: The Story of the Middle East. usually represented by `. He continues. More in Lawrence’s vein. The skill and precision with which a given system is used may be an index of knowledge of the foreign language. in his famous non-academic travel account Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger writes. At this point the lay reader may exclaim. To the myopic dotter of i’s and crosser of t’s. Take the word for judge. Lawrence’s resistance to expert standardization been extinguished by the normalizing procedures of science? Yes and no. I have before me the handiwork of Hitti. few Englishmen can pronounce this letter correctly. their mistakes often betrayed their ignorance of those systems. as it always does in forewords to books on the Middle East. In contemporary books. E. In any case. Gibb k_d_. But there remain significant traces of anxieties and frustrations. “No man could hope to draw together the various fields from which the materials of this book are derived if he were a scholar in any one of them.

Gaffney. Lancaster sticks to Rwala. or can easily discover. but he states. in his “Note on Transliteration” (1997. It may be recalled that his group’s tribal name had been rendered by T.Brinkley Messick unintelligible ` would be both confusing and irritating. consider the explicit reference by social anthropologist and non-Arabist William Lancaster in The Rwala Bedouin Today. like Amman. I have stuck to the conventional spelling.” For their part. “I apologize for cluttering the text with transliterated Arabic words. Experts say that this soft ghuttural sound is pronounced like the Parisian ‘r’. some Arabists have another anxiety which occasionally is made explicit. and those who do not know the language would be little the wiser had I transliterated them differently.” Likewise. the other as Neguib. as confusing as it may appear. “As names are variously pronounced and spelt in different dialects and areas. Lawrence that the official system only helps those who know enough Arabic to need no help.” In a following list Evans-Pritchard begins by – 186 – . Mottahedeh (1980: x). E. with regard to transliteration and related conventions. He adds. [1981]: xiii). In common place names. The Arabist will know. Roy P. Ghain. a sort of silent growl: the ‘gh’ is the Arabic ghain. Evans-Pritchard distinguishes between his own work and that of the Arabist: “I have transliterated Arabic words in the simplest way. a not-so-silent growl. in his peerless study The Society of the Muslim Brothers.” In the Preface to his classic ethnography (and innovative anthropological history). and that Lawrence also mischievously wished he had used Ruwala and Ruala as well. gives the surname of two brothers within the space of three lines. E.” Like many others of his generation. Gaffney adopts the IJMES system with some qualifications. I have attempted to steer a middle course between a pedantic obsession with consistency and a defiant abandonment to arbitrary phonetic approximations of the sort that T. Lawrence justifies in the barbed and witty ‘Preface’ to Seven Pillars of Wisdom. one as Najib.” Lancaster goes on to detail the extent to which he intends to override the relevant distinctions: “I have made no distinction between light and heavy consonants nor between long and short vowels. (1959: xv). E.” A more recent reference to Lawrence and to explicit dangers right and left is found in Patrick D. Here I follow the lead of Richard Mitchaell who. Lawrence as Ruwalla and Rualla. E. I have used the conventional ‘gh’. The Sanusi of Cyrenaica (1949: iv). however. how they are written in Arabic. adds an issue rarely remarked upon by other authors: “In the case of personal names I recognize the right to orthographic self-presentation.” He concludes. for example. E. This is a difference of three characters in the transcription of a word that only has four letters in the original Arabic. writes. The Prophet’s Pulpit (1994: 10): “Finally. Within the discipline. two Arabic letters are collapsed into one mark: “The apostrophe (‘) is either a glottal stop or the Arabic `ain. For the difficult letter. I agree with T. “I hope that experts will forgive me. I have relied on commonsense.

” Unlike the other cases thus far mentioned. has the value the Parisian gives to the ‘r’ in ‘Paris’. Sidi Moa is what I hear.. phonetically impossible or not. which I write as ‘Sidi Moa’. is found in anthropologist Abdalla S. which stands for the Arabic letter qaf. and also of nonattention to the requirements of colloquial expression. of a shared life and religion. “I respect ordinary French transliterations. and I have not attempted to use this method. . an unwritten language usually rendered either in French or Arabic. Some linguistically trained scholars assure me that “Moa” is a phonetic impossibility.” An example of a once important system no longer adopted.” Equally classic is Ernest Gellner’s Saints of the Atlas (1969). he adds. for instance. which stands for the Arabic letter ghain. Unusual in its placement in the book’s back matter. rather than to allow myself to be persuaded retrospectively that I must have heard something other than what I remember having heard or recorded in my notes. one way or another. In the eyes of both Muslims and Orientalists. “It is not always possible to satisfy both these principles at once. be misguided. transcribed the name in the same way.” He thus declines to use the conventional Arabic transliteration systems. Thus. has in Cyrenaica the value of a hard ‘g’ as in the English word ‘goat. possessing a bad ear and no linguistic training. Gellner’s “Note on Transliteration” (pp.’ that ‘gh’. But anyone who wished to use this residual phonetic information for serious scholarly purposes would.Notes on Transliteration identifying a spoken-language phenomenon found among groups of Arabic speakers from Morocco to Iraq: “For the uninitiated it need only be said that the letter ‘q’. the phonetic information has in any case been reduced to the minimum . Bujra’s The Politics of Stratification (1971). Gellner concludes. . there is a local name .” But. Anyway. so to speak. 305– 6) describes two basic intentions: to insure the proper identification of places.” he says. and I have given the first principle priority. “I take responsibility for the social and semantic information contained in this study. though others write it ‘Sidi Moh’. which stands for the Arabic `ain. groups. “It is not only French which has a privileged position in the transcription of Moroccan Berber words. I fear. Something of the hardheaded spirit of Lawrence is found in social scientist Gellner as well: With respect to words heard locally and not occurring significantly in previous records. and to give an “impression” of the “actual sound” of words and names. etc. is a guttural sound peculiar to Arabic. and of course independently. partly because I am ill-equipped to satisfy the second. implies nothing. the language in question for Gellner is Berber. I am partly reassured by the fact that some French administrators also. But the historical accident. I have preferred to rely on my untrained and insensitive ear. Arabic has a privileged position. In view of my incompetence in this field. and that `. “but only within reason. in the Preface of which he – 187 – . . about the phonetic affinity of Berber sounds and Arabic letters. . Gellner writes.

One is caught between what one hears said and what one sees written. and this distinction is marked in this “Note:” “We are indebted to a number of our Arabist colleagues for generous help in these matters.Brinkley Messick states that “All Arabic words in this book have been transliterated in accordance with the system used by the new edition (1960) of the Encyclopedia of Islam. while leaving the non-Arabist free from distracting technicalities. Harrell’s system for transliterating Moroccan Arabic vowels (Harrell 1966: xiii–xix) for two reasons. but leave them unnamed for fear of implicating them in the errors that remain. for the most part.” he writes. In “Note on Transliteration” in his Moroccan Islam (1976: xi–xii). even those which occur in written. – a worse fate yet – between the passions of linguists and those of philologists.” In the Preface to his 1984 Bargaining for Reality. In any case. . xii). Harrell’s system contains the publishing advantage of eliminating the – 188 – . [T]his system should make it possible for the Arabist to determine what the word in fact ‘really’ is. xi–xii). and a simple procedure had by this point become standard: “In order not to clutter the text with italics and diacritics. but he was one of the first anthropologists also trained in written Arabic. “it is hoped that Arabic scholars will have no difficulty identifying words and comparing them to entries in the Wehr dictionary. First. Eickleman also worked in Morocco in the same period. Concerned about similar issues of readability. Eickleman also privileges the spoken forms. designed primarily for classical Arabic. “Most Arabic words. while the ordinary reader will not be distracted from the central issues with which we will be concerned” (p. except when their appearances are widely separated . “The orthographies that exist are designed for classical Arabic. Americans had begun to figure prominently in the anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa. The Encyclopedia of Islam or other standard reference works. In the “Transcription note” of their Meaning and Order in a Moroccan Society. are transliterated as they are pronounced in the spoken Arabic of the region in which I worked. classical Arabic. Dale F. he writes.” It was considered equally important to avoid burdening the text and aggravating the reader. and thus. . . These anthropologists now find themselves in an awkward position located between the dictates of colloquial versus those of written Arabic and also between the schemes of competing academic disciplines. it is more accurate than the system of the International Congress of Orientalsts (ICO). Geertz et al.” Anthropologists had not yet become Arabists in their own right. The text would have been unnecessarily complicated had I followed separate conventions for the spoken and written variants . Lawrence Rosen identifies the two envisioned poles of his readership.” A decade later. (1979) state that “The problem of transcribing Arabic remains a vexed one” (pp. “By this system. . Arabic words are strictly transcribed in each essay only the first time they appear.” He selects a linguist’s system: “I have preferred Richard S. specialists will easily be able to reconstitute the classical forms. exists only in literary form. which. Second.

Dresch begins with modesty: I cannot claim to be an Arabist. (xxviii–xxix) As a potential “Malinowski” figure.” But he maintains that “my simplified and classicizing versions probably do not obscure all that much.” His overall system choice is to follow a simplified version of the transliteration used in the modern standard Arabic dictionary by the German scholar Hans Wehr. who privilege spoken forms. Dresch. he adds that “one should certainly not use them for any fine-grained linguistic purposes. Government. in his Knowledge and Power in Morocco.” Unlike ethnographers such as Eickleman. in practice. Walter Armbrust’s “Note on Transliteration” in Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt (1996: xi). However.Notes on Transliteration macron for long vowels. Dresch imposes his own system on these reported texts as well: “Where I quote from other people’s translations I have modified their transliteration to conform with the scheme used here. often play Mauss to the anthropologist’s Malinowski and spot. Dresch says that “when in doubt” he has “reverted to classical voweling. Unlike the common earlier practice of leaving as is transliterations that appear in material quoted from other Western scholars.” Like Gellner. Eickelman reaffirms his commitment to the spoken: “Any analysis that draws upon extensive interviews as well as written sources must necessarily cross the line between colloquial and written usage. I would not always recognize one now (but then neither would tribesmen). Those who are Arabists will soon spot that my knowledge of the language is essentially practical. Dresch admits. without ever going there. In a remark reminiscent of Gellner.” A decade later.” Dresch’s students are also trained in written Arabic. (1976). and a non-North African field location are involved in the work of Paul K. A slightly different intellectual genealogy. anthropologists who do not know Arabic should be aware that the language is remarkably regular and its different varieties are often closely connected – with the result that an Arabist can. and History in Yemen (1989). that one has misunderstood what one heard. an anthropologist with Arabic training and historical as well as ethnographic interests. on the complex genre of film screenplays among other texts. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. for instance. Gellner would continue to differ and hold to his impossible Sidi Moa. and there are translations from written Arabic histories scattered throughout the book. follows the IJMES system for literary Arabic and A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic (1986) for the colloquial. “I do not have a trained ear. long vowels in colloquial texts are – 189 – . however. with some modifications: “consonants that conform to literary pronunciation are rendered according to IJMES guidelines. although I was taught when I started what a diptote is. Dresch offers lengthy passages of transliterated and translated tribal poetry in appendices. I have usually given preference to the colloquial form of terms and phrases” (1985: xviii). In “Transliteration” in his Tribes.

. that in the case of vernacular poetry. reproduces the phonetic changes that occur when sentences are spoken. presents “English transliterations of the Arabic originals. (1995: xii) Mundy’s procedures are to be distinguished from those of scholars who once controlled the analyses of written Arabic texts. provides an interesting example. It will be complained by language specialists. In her Domestic Government. Mundy comments. without attempting a phonetic transcription. for fragments versus phonetic wholes: “Book titles. . In an appendix. however. he also refers readers to “A Note on Transcription” in Lila Abu-Lughod. The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent (1988).Brinkley Messick marked with a macron as in IJMES rather than the doubled letter used in Badawi and Hinds. He then explains his different uses for transliteration and transcription.” Shyrock uses the standard IJMES system. . I have adopted transliteration similar to that current for classical Arabic.e.” Here. Mundy takes a significant step beyond transliteration by including a printed Arabic text. Martha Mundy is another Arabist-anthropologist who. . but as in many other locales. His Appendix A. of giving it a “reading. the linguistic technique for the reporting of spoken texts becomes the chosen technique for the vocalization of – 190 – . here again “the reader is warned that the Balga Bedouin pronounce q as g. when citing from unpublished manuscripts. Baber Johansen’s historical study of early legal texts. local documents or vernacular poetry. Veiled Sentiments (1986: xv–xix). and so on. i.” The combination of classical Arabic texts and phonetic representation is now found in the work of (non-anthropological) Arabists. single words and half sentences are simply transliterated. This innovation (in anthropological monographs) and others likely to come are facilitated by the availability of foreign-language word-processing programs. A certain delight in discoveries of “mistakes” and the associated task of correcting extant manuscript versions with the aim of producing a newly authoritative text were hallmarks of Orientalist philology. like Dresch. works on tribal Yemen. however. Whole sentences are transcribed. that in printing an Arabic text in this manner she skirts the scholarly task of “voweling” the Arabic. in their case. I have not corrected the occasional departure from standard grammar but have transcribed the text verbatim. Johansen first introduces his list of letter equivalents: “The following signs are used in the transliteration of Arabic letters: . And the transcription.” In an unusual step. in a “Note on Anthropological Terms and Arabic Transliteration. Likewise.” Andrew Shryock’s Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination (1997). .”. In what he calls “Notes on Transcription” (x). the transliteration reproduces the Arabic letters and not their phonetic value.” she adopts the IJMES system. “Transliterations of `Abbadi and `Adwani Poems” (329– 339). that is. . is on oral Bedouin histories and poems and their conversion into written history.

Although. she follows a different system from those discussed. Susan Slymovics’ The Object of Memory (1998) also uses both terms. Medina. the American Library Association–Library of Congress System. In the resulting transcription system. Haeri states. mufti. In an unusual location in the back matter. Dental. and Glide” along the other. Also in this system. a strict sense use of transcription is retained among some linguistic anthropologists together with a set of conventional signs used by them alone. Pharyngeal and Glottal” along one axis and “Stop. Haeri places “Labial. her Appendix 1. Lateral. the two terms sometimes may be used interchangeably. and exceptions are provided within the usual phonetic brackets.” She refers to dialectical language studies by Harrell (1962) and now Heath (1987).” In her Gender on the Market. In “Notes on Transcription” in Niloofar Haeri’s The Sociolinguistic Market of Cairo (1996: vi) we find an example of an anthropological linguist who studies language variation. Arabist Johansen’s previously mentioned “transcriptions” of whole written texts. “Arabic words that have a common English form (e. and the letter `ayn by the sign instead of the transliterator’s raised “c” or the “ ` ” of my keyboard. A very different variety of linguistic anthropology is exemplified by work on vernacular Yemeni poetry by Arabistanthropologist Steven Caton. the Arabic consonant commonly transliterated as “sh” is rendered as “š” with an inverted circumflex. Nasal. for the emphatic consonants. which are treated as if spoken. Such scholars use a system of formal transcription. here “MA” (Moroccan Arabic). she follows the specialist system of Zeitschrift fur arabische Linguistik.g. Velar. by contrast.Notes on Transliteration written texts. In her extensive reporting of spoken texts Kapchan explains. Johansen concludes. Like many others now. Spirant. Even the sub-disciplinary linguistic folks segment into subgroups whose identities are marked by their adopted systems. For Modern Standard Arabic. a back-matter item that also has become de rigueur. “Notes on Transliteration and Transcription” (211–13) treats both Hebrew and Arabic. she must contend with both “CA” (Classical Arabic) and a colloquial language. whose “Peaks of Yemen I Summon” contains “A Note – 191 – .” by contrast. “my ear is tuned to the dialects of Beni Mellal and Marrakech and my transliterations reflect this. Iraq) are neither transliterated nor transcribed. “Most transcriptions in this study are attempts at phonemic representation. capital letters replace the dots under letters used in transliteration systems. use the conventional signs of transliteration. Uvular. Palatal. Flap. For “colloquial Palestinian Arabic dialect.” “gh” as .” Using technical terms only one or two of which ever appear among anthropological transliterators. and also provides a Glossary. as just seen. Deborah Kapchan’s note also concerns “Transcription and Transliteration” (1996: xi–xii). “kh” as “x.” The chart she provides “is adapted from Broselow (1976) The Phonology of Egyptian Arabic.

“The transcription system of the International Journal of Middle East Studies is used here. Rualla. Ruwala. minor dimensions or intermediate systems of the larger “trans” relation between languages. her text reports spoken Arabic. However. because this is a study of an Arabic dialect and not the literary language. “In the transcription of speech I have tried to follow as much as possible the actual pronunciation of words.” Stefania Pandolfo’s “Note on Transcription” in her Impasse of the Angels (1997: ix–xi) deals with the special case of a “multilingual environment” of Berber and Arabic. Michael Meeker’s “Note on Transliteration and Translation” in his Literature and Violence in North Arabia (1979: xiv) is a special case. “Musil devised a system of recording Rwala dialect which he hoped would accurately indicate its sound values in a Western script. however. mainly within a single discipline. while keeping the grammar visible and the syntax understandable. Meeker states that “quotes from authors other than Musil have often retained their methods of transliterating Arabic. Thus Caton writes. together with some examples from Arabists and travelers. but in contrast to the sort of work represented by Haeri. Mainly.” He also provides a “detailed description of Yemeni Arabic (specifically tribal) phonology” in his Appendix A. the system actually intended is one of transliteration. The cases examined involve the representation of Arabic in English.Brinkley Messick on Transcription” (1990: xv). either stand-alone proper – 192 – . attempting to convey the diversity and distinctive character of the vernacular idioms. Ruala) – but it is based on the historical corpus of research by Alois Musil (1928). The usages in question are of two basic types. There is a debate about the degree to which he was successful. she points out (illustrating her version transliteration in the process) that “Written Arabic does not have vowels but only harakat.” Unlike the practice adopted by later Arabist-anthropologists. The outcome is necessarily a compromise. but one based on the regular English alphabet. “movements. I have had to introduce certain changes. For the sake of readability I have chosen not to use a phonetic transcription.” but “Musil’s vowelizations of the Rwala dialect have been preserved since he is virtually the sole authority on this matter. This is an anthropology of colloquial poetry – once again involving the Arabian tribe known as the Rwala (Ruwalla. His use of the term “transcription” is appropriate for a linguistic inquiry.” VII My “notes” here – I hope they compensate for the absence of one in my 1993 book (with some interesting company) – have explored transliteration and transcription.” In an argument also found in the work of Timothy Mitchell (1988: 19).” Meeker has “changed and simplified Musil’s script so that the reader with some knowledge of Arabic might easily recognize Rwala cognates.

in the case of Middle East studies. Differing registers of Arabic complexly relate to social relations and. figure centrally in the making of an account. the personality of the anthropologist found few textual channels for expression. the back-and-forth between the publisher and the author concerning “transliterations. however. in citation. expert readers’ comments conveyed to the author by the publisher could leave scars apparent in the vexed tone of the published “note. in journals such as IJMES. and especially from the “experts. incisive formulations or significant statements which. but I will not detain you with pedantic examples. They occur in passages involving a surrounding discussion in English.” Figuring among the unrecorded “pretexts” of a published book. the florid and revealing “Note on Transliteration” seems to have gone the way of the old-fashioned polemical footnote. providing indices not only of disciplinary identities but also of the detailed bases of interpretations. Transliterations or transcriptions usually concern key concepts. represent a special challenge involving a range of technical options. before the outing of the “self” and the associated venting in the discipline’s “reflexive” turn. the witticisms and the anxieties alike mostly replaced by the advance of the professional apparatus. Quibbles or full-blown criticisms of an author’s transliterations are not uncommon in professional reviews. first were coming to terms with the complexities of Arabic as both a spoken and a written language. As forbearance is sought from readers.” Now. for renderings in English.” many “notes” make reference to debates and disputes about transliteration.” With their bursts of spleen. The earlier sensitivity of this pretextual site may itself have been linked to a transitional moment in the field. In the early days. The choices made and the skills demonstrated bear on our assessments of the subtlety and accuracy of the anthropological inquiry in question. The voice of the “note” seems quieter now. when anthropologists. Malinowski (1961[1922]: 23–4) set the pattern for the British school of social anthropology. or as separate texts located in an appendix. who “tried to quote – 193 – . Or at least that is the way it was. admissions of weakness. Note 1. false pleas for forgiveness. or words and phrases accompanied by a translation or gloss. In a famous methodological introduction he describes his advance from the ethnographers of the former Cambridge school. Directly or indirectly. transliterations and transcriptions interact with translations.. etc. other than in such “notes.Notes on Transliteration names or terms. The “Preface” to Seven Pillars of Wisdom. by contrast. in passages in English which translate Arabic. some “notes” may be read as the records of a prior ordeal. provides us an unusual glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of publishing.

pp.). Marcus (eds. Spivak. 1992. The Stort of the Middle East.). Clifford and G. Berkeley: University of California Press. Berkeley: University of California Press. J. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.).” he states. 98–121. 1986. 1974. Austin: University of Texas Press. (eds.” In Writing Culture. Peaks of Yemen I Summon. pp. —— “Notes on (Field)notes. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Caton. 1989. New York: Henry Holt. The Order of Texts. Lila. “The Concept of Cultural Translation in British Social Anthropology.” In Fieldnotes.” Representations 1(2).” In Writing Culture. Government. Tribes. 118– 4. Berkeley: University of California Press. M. Paul K.Brinkley Messick verbatim statements of crucial importance” and who also reported the “termini technici” of native usage. Cairo: Badawi and Hinds. 1986. 1990. 1986. Chartier. Abdalla S. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1990. Vincent. Carlton S. Eickleman. R. J. He reports that his initial efforts to translate into English gave way to his writing directly in Kiriwinian: “at last.” Over time this led to the production of what he called a “corpus inscriptionum Kiriwiniensium. “On Ethnographic Authority. Marcus. Crapanzano. The Politics of Stratification. Speech Genres & Other Essays. Coon. Clifford. – 194 – . Marcus (eds. 1983. James.” In Writing Culture. Sanjek (ed. Walter. Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt. 1996. —— “On Ethnographic Allegory. Asad. pp. 47–70. Clifford and G. Trans. Burja. Berkeley: University of California Press. M. and History in Yemen. 1971. Armburst. 51– 76. Derrida. Veiled Sentiments. 1986. Berkeley: University of California Press. Clifford and G. Austin: University of Texas Press. Steven. Of Grammatology. 1986. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Talal. J. “I found myself writing exclusively in that language. 1986. A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic. pp.” References Abu-Lughod. Bakhtin. Moroccan Islam. Dresch. 1976. Caravan. Dale F. G. to his own method which was based on far more extensive competence in the native language. “Hermes’ Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description. 141–64. pp. Roger. C. 1951. Jacques.

Ablaut and Ambiguity: Phonology of a Moroccan Arabic Dialect. Saints of the Atlas. 1959. 1988. Deborah. pp. Anthony. Washington.C. 1949. Roy. William. pp. Heath. Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition. 1996. 1997 [1981]. Timothy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Geertz. The Prophet’s Pulpit. E. P. Martha. P. J. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ——. 158–176. 1996. Fabian. London: Kegan Paul. London: I. Dutton. Patrick D. IL: Waveland. Charles. 1979. S. 1980. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Gaffney. Lancaster. “Keep Listening: Ethnography and Reading. 1994. “On the Question of Lithography. Alois. The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin. MA: Harvard University Press. Mundy. Boyarin (ed. 325–40. Johansen. Bronislaw. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. New York: Anchor.Notes on Transliteration —— Knowledge and Power in Morocco. Ernest. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. H. 1992. Albany: State University of New York Press. Lawrence. Richard.” In The Ethnography of Reading. London: Croom Helm. pp. T. Berkeley: University of California Press. Cambridge. Meaning and Order in a Moroccan Society. 1985. Rosen. E. “Note on Transliteration”. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1995. Mottahedeh. Oxford: Oxford University Press. “Diglossia. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Evans-Pritchard. Michael.” Culture and History 16 (Copenhagen). A Short Reference Grammar of Moroccan Arabic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1961 [1922]. 1969. New York: Crane. Grafton. 80–97. 1928. 1987. B. The Sociolinguistic Market of Cairo. In The Rwala Bedouin Today. and L. Prospect Heights. Brinkley. Kapchan.). Johannes. The Sanusi of Cyrenaica. Niloofar. 1997. Tauris. New York: E. Meeker. C. 1962. Mitchell. Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society. Malinowski. Harrall. D. Baber.” Word 15. The Footnote: A Curious History. Colonizing Egypt. 1993. Ferguson. Musil. Haeri. 1979. Domestic Government. – 195 – . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gellner. E.: Georgetown University Press.. The Calligraphic State. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1935. Geertz. Jeffery. 1997. 1988. Messick. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Literature and Violence in North Arabia. The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent.

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Shryock. Berkeley: University of California Press. Impasse of the Angels. Rosen. Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination. The Object of Memory. 1959. Wilfred. Stefania. 1976. Ithaca: Spoken Language Services. Thesiger. Lawrence. New York: Dutton. Susan. Wehr. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic.Brinkley Messick Pandolfo. 1998. 1984. Hans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 3d ed. Slymovics. Arabian Sands. Bargaining for Reality. – 196 – . 1997. Andrew. 1997.

He had in fact learned the language of the Incas. Thus when Fray Vicente de Valverde addressed a long and uncompromising speech to Atahuallpa in which he outlined the Christian faith and demanded the Inka’s submission to the Pope and to the Emperor. “Instead of God three in one. but in Túmbez.–8– The Ethnographer as Pontifex Benson Saler Incident at Cajamarca Some of the difficulties attendant on understanding and then translating religious concepts are illustrated by an incident that occurred during the Spanish conquest of the Inka Empire. not in Cuzco. and the words he heard most often were those used by the ordinary soldiers . the chronicler tells us.” Felipe was a native of the island of Puna. This is shown by the tradition of the quipus. He had also learnt Spanish without a teacher. a man of very plebeian origin. (Vega 1966: 682) As might be expected. while clearly no admirer of Felipe. young – for he was scarcely twenty-two – and as little versed in the general language of the Incas as in Spanish. we have already explained that to all the Indians but the natives of Cuzco this is a foreign language. kept at Cajamarca. he had received no instruction in the Christian religion and knew nothing about Christ our Lord. adding the numbers in order to make himself understood. he said God three and one make four. “but because he did not understand what he was interpreting. . Though baptized. and was totally ignorant of the Apostles’ creed. from Indians who speak barbarously and corruptly as foreigners. Felipe. Felipe translated poorly from one language to the other. According to the chronicler.1 Garcilaso. He did so not out of malice. – 197 – . could not express it [the doctrine of the Trinity] in any other way. but merely by hearing the Spaniards speak. The first verbal exchanges between the Spaniards and the Inka ruler Atahuallpa were mediated by an interpreter named Felipe. does not blame him entirely for mistranslating Fray Vicente’s speech. where the event occurred” (Vega 1966: 682). Among other things. . or annual records in knots. and spoke it like a parrot” (Vega 1966: 682). for there are no words or phrases in the Peruvian language for many of the concepts of the Christian religion. Garcilaso de la Vega. Felipe mangled the translation. nicknamed “El Inka. he claims.

and still do not exist [twenty-nine years later]. That is. moreover. it seems. can be called the principle of “canonical reflexivity. the potential harm – of any doctrine for the possibilities of human salvation? (Placher 1983: 69) The second. and the words have never existed. at least partly. has proven difficult to translate from one language to another. Smith (1987). so that they can say what they want and the Indians can understand the sermons that are preached to them. faith. These are totally unknown to the gentiles. out of profound ignorance. grace. (1966: 682) I return eventually to Garcilaso’s remarks about how the doctrines of Christianity may be “adequately” conveyed to Peruvian Indians.Benson Saler such as Trinity. beginning with efforts to render Greek formulations of it into Latin. Church. Here.” Smith maintains that a religion is to be identified by the repeated references or returns. if – 198 – . they have to seek new words or phrases. however. The first we may term anthropocentric pragmatism. I explore that point by first describing certain problems posed by theologians respecting the doctrine of the Trinity. adapting and amending a theoretical construct advanced by Brian K. adapting them to their own ways of speech. Two are especially relevant here. The doctrine of the Trinity. I want to consider one particular doctrine. or use with great care suitably dignified expressions in the old language or else lay hands on the many words the cultured and scholarly Indians have taken from Spanish and introduced into their own languages. They nevertheless proclaim it to be central to their faith and of crucial significance for their salvation. thoughtful theologians generally evaluate their theological options in light of this consideration: what may be the likely consequences – indeed. thus helping the Spaniards to find the words that are lacking. in their language. I go on from there to consider some recent theoretical claims about the counter-intuitive aspects of religious ideas. The Indians of today do this with great elegance. and certain of the implications of such claims for translation. they commonly recognize certain constraints on their theologies. Felipe added three Gods and one God and came up with four. For this reason. The Doctrine of the Trinity Despite a fair amount of heterogeneity in opinion among Christian theologians. But even well-schooled and greatly respected Christian theologians have confessed to difficulties in understanding the doctrine of the Trinity. when the Spanish interpreters of these times wish to express these ideas adequately. and similar words. that of the Trinity. sacraments. Holy Spirit. Difficulties in understanding and conveying the doctrine of the Trinity are traceable in part to a major factor affecting the comprehension and translation of many religious ideas: the matter of their partial counter-intuitivity.

but their regard for the chanting of those works in Sanskrit is important to their identity as Hindus. for example. the Council. that its adherents make to some canon. proved to be of major divisive significance within Christendom. ‘substance’ – by Latinspeaking churchmen was generally in harmony with the literal meaning assigned to it by their Greek-speaking colleagues.g. what other considerations might that implicate? Thus. Smith is forced to identify “Marxism” and “Freudianism” as religions. While the translation of this Greek term – homo. The Council concluded that the Son is co-eternal with the Father and that he is “begotten not made. if Jesus were a creature.” his begetting.” This matter of being homoousios proved to be theologically problematic. or only from the Father. for unlike creatures he was not begotten at some point in time. The canon is invested with authority. are ignorant of what is contained in the Vedas. I acknowledge that it is often important in religions. from nothing to something. as the Eastern Church maintained. If he had changed once. he is canonically distinguished from the Heavenly Father (e.The Ethnographer as Pontifex only formulaic. While the Third Person (The Holy Spirit) was discussed. he would have come into existence at some time. At the same time. and doing so betokens change. These two principles relate to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. might he not change again? And dare we entrust human salvation to a creature capable of change (Placher 1983)? These and other considerations entered into the development of the doctrine of the Triune God. in proclaiming the Son to be “true God from true God. by eventual consensus. And while I do not hold that canonical reflexivity is either necessary or sufficient for identifying religion. whether written or oral. ‘same’ + ousios. even if they do not explicitly discuss its substance. Much of the early argument in the developing Church focused on the relationship of the Second Person of the Trinity (the Son) to the First (God the Father). being an eternal begetting. it received less polemical attention in the first few centuries – albeit argument over whether the Spirit “proceeds” both from the Father “and from the Son” (“filioque”). The Council of Nicaea (AD 325) was called by the Emperor Constantine largely to settle the issue of whether the Son is co-eternal with the Father or whether. then. like a creature. (Many Hindus. however. is Jesus? And how is he related to the Father? And if human salvation comes through Jesus Christ.) By resting religion on this one criterion. for instance.” also declared him to be “of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father. The New Testament depicts Jesus Christ as more than a man. as Augustine of Hippo and the Western Church proclaimed. I criticize him elsewhere for doing so (Saler 2000 [1993]). What. “the Father is greater than I” [John 14:28]). and the positive references that people make to it are definitive of their faith or perspective. Further. as Arius claimed. there were divisions among both Greek – 199 – . he had come into existence at some time.

for. a leading fourth-century theologian. Indeed. They declared. . Some churchmen at the Council apparently understood “the same substance” to mean of the same divine stuff. and Holy Spirit are all of one ousia. Arius held that “There was a time when the Son was not. substantia is the literal Latin translation of hypostasis (both words mean “that which stands under”). . And. But Athanasius.Benson Saler and Latin speakers as to the theological interpretation of the term. however. Since the time of Tertullian. Unfortunately. They maintained that the Father. and one substantia. the Three Persons of the same divine ousia are the only form that ousia has ever taken or could ever take (Placher 1983: 78).” The Athanasian homoousios theology was eventually strengthened by the Cappadocian Fathers. Son. one “substance”. of a “similar substance” rather than of the same substance. unlike any other three persons. The Cappadocian Fathers assisted in clarifying understandings by extended explications. which would be somewhat like saying that two pieces of oak furniture are of the same substance because they are both made of oak wood. Some of the theologians who supported the idea of the same divine stuff (oak in general) rather than the very same stuff (the same oak tree) eventually endorsed the claim that the Son is homoiousios with the Father. – 200 – . as Placher (1983: 78–79) points out. Latin-speaking Christians had made a parallel distinction between three personae . Alan Kolp (1975: 101) suggests that “Without noting it the Arian controversy is a struggle over the correct use of Platonic philosophical categories.” Eventually. but they are three hypostaseis (“individuals.” The debate at Nicaea between those who inclined to his opinion and Athanasius and his supporters was influenced significantly by Greek philosophy. for instance. This terminology immediately raised problems in Greek. and Gregory of Nazianzus. and in case anyone was not aware of it. non-synonymous senses. Gregory of Nyssa. they always act in perfect harmony and concert.” “persons”). they called attention to the fact that they were using the terms ousia and hypostasis in special. insisted that the term means the very same substance. of course. Further. that while the Three Persons are each distinct. things were more or less sorted out by those who took the trouble to acquaint themselves with the peculiarities of usage in Cappadocian theological Greek and the problems encountered in translating from that discourse to Latin.” as in some of the writings of Athanasius (Placher 1983: 78). which would be analogous to saying that our two pieces of oak furniture are cut from the very same oak tree (adapted from Placher 1983). where the terms ousia and hypostasis were sometimes employed as synonyms for “substance. so horrified Latin-speaking Christians read Greek references to “three hypostaseis” as meaning “three substantiae. And it raised problems for translation into Latin. who creatively reformulated certain Greek metaphysical categories. Basil the Great.

A more contemporary consideration of the difficulty of understanding the doctrine of the Trinity (and thus. In the first of his two summas. The truths of the Incarnation and Trinity. If they do. Newman’s Grammar is a major nineteenth-century work dealing with the epistemology of belief.” Newman writes. that it can be proportional to evidence. for all things that are. that revealed truths – he supplies two examples. Chapt. declare it to be beyond the powers of human comprehension. inferring. are not merely difficult to understand. common from abstraction. (1985: 22) – 201 – . are units. however. Inference is the relating of a proposition to others as a conclusion. While John Locke (1959 [1689]) holds that assent is conditional. at least in this life. impossible to understand. and of the latter notional.The Ethnographer as Pontifex Difficulties in Comprehending the Doctrine of the Trinity Despite the attempts at clarification described above. The first is by the unaided exercise of human reason and the third is by the post-mortem attainment of the Beatific Vision. as something made clear to be seen. many theologians (to say nothing of ordinary Christians) deem the doctrine of the Trinity exceedingly difficult to understand. “The terms of a proposition. but as something spoken in words to be believed” (SCG IV. Newman is concerned with what is involved in apprehending. wherein the human mind will be elevated to more powerful understandings. they are. and others as well. he says. IV. He allows that inference may be conditional. indeed. which is the one that most directly concerns us here. 1:5). The apprehension of the former I call real. 1870]). He characterizes apprehension as the mind’s imposition of sense on the predicate of a proposition. however. Some. the difficulty of translating it) is given by John Henry Newman in his An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1985 [1889. Newman denies it. Thomas writes that there are three ways for humans to obtain a knowledge of things divine. Thomas declares. and are common terms. The second. do or do not stand for things. the Summa contra gentiles (Bk. one of the greatest theologians in Christendom maintains that his religion turns on certain truths that the faithful must accept but cannot fully fathom. 1). at least in this life. and assenting to propositions. the “angelic doctor” teaches. But if they do not stand for things they must stand for notions. in a profound sense. the Incarnation and the Trinity – are given to us “not. Yet they are fundamental facts of reality and of crucial importance for the possibility of human salvation. Assent. In short. but not assent. then they are singular terms. And assent is the mind’s acceptance of the truth of a proposition. does not admit of degrees (1985: 32). Singular nouns come from experience. Thomas Aquinas takes that position. is by revelation from God. by implication.

– 202 – . 6. But if the nine propositions are taken together as a “systematized whole. 4. the Father. he relates.” that combination “is the object of notional assent” (1985: 91). The dogma of the Trinity. “what is concrete exerts a force and makes an impression on the mind which nothing abstract can rival. Nicaean. of the nature of prayers. The Father is the One Eternal Personal God. In the case of notional propositions. varies in strength because. (1985: 91) Combining the nine into a whole. to speak of intellectual difficulties would be out of place” (1985: 90). .” Newman informs us.” And in them. can be the object of real assent. and are addressed to the intellect. that is. and in such addresses.Benson Saler In the case of real propositions. Newman remarks that the Holy Trinity in Unity “is never spoken of as a Mystery in the sacred book. an affirmation that is beyond our full comprehension and that is to be accepted on faith. 8. Rather than digress to sketch the similarities (and differences). The Word or Son. The Spirit is the One Eternal Personal God. therefore so is the apprehension of it” (1985: 31). however. are these: 1. There are Three who give testimony in heaven. Nor is it termed a mystery in the Apostles’. “which have a place in the Ritual” and are “devotional acts . The Son is not the Holy Ghost. and ever has been. Further. . because the object is more powerful. in contrast. 5. I focus instead on the applications that Newman makes of his own distinction to what his Church teaches about the Trinity. “the mysteriousness of the doctrine is almost uniformly insisted on” (1985: 91). which is addressed far more to the imagination and affection than to the intellect” (1985: 90). and Athanasian Creeds. The Holy Ghost is not the Father. Each of the nine. That is. 2. in Newman’s words. The nine propositions. Newman’s distinction between “real” and “notional” beliefs resembles to some extent distinctions that certain contemporary philosophers draw between “de re” and “de dicto” beliefs (see for example Woodfield 1982: v–xi). the Spirit. and ever has been. “as regards catechisms and theological treatises. . the Son. taken separately.” though Popes and Councils “have found it their duty to insist afresh upon the dogma” (1985: 91). addressed to God. produces a theological mystery – that is. 3.” The apprehension of a proposition. moreover. “the terms stand for things external to us” (1985: 13) insofar as there are impressions of those things in the imagination. consists of nine propositions. canon after canon. From the Father is. according to Newman. the mind is directed to its own creations rather than to “things. The Father is not the Son. for the devout can image each by a lively act of the imagination. 9. . 7. and the Holy Spirit. The Son is the One Eternal Personal God. it is not called a mystery in “Confession after confession. From the Father and Son is. But the “custom is otherwise. Newman says. . says Newman. These belong to particular ages and places.

more broadly.The Ethnographer as Pontifex The Counter-intuitive While numbers of Christians maintain that the Trinity is a divine mystery revealed to finite human minds by God. . a secular intellectual history of the doctrine takes a different tack. who had difficulties with his brother. – 203 – . experience and folk belief-desire psychology testify that individuals often disagree in significant ways and pursue different ends. . and procreation – and. to apply arithmetical notions to Him may be as unphilosophical as it is profane” (1985: 39). Closely related to that problem is the problem of reconciling the individuation of the Three Persons of the Trinity with their eternal and perfect unity in thought and action. Newman. That is. A major impetus to that development. for that matter. as suggested earlier. in secular perspective. for example. was in large measure the unfolding of efforts to resolve that tension or paradox. Numbers of theologians. Nor. the doctrine of the Trinity – the doctrine that the one true living God who created all else consists of three eternal Persons of the same substance who always act in perfect concert – is difficult to comprehend because it violates several of our work-a-day intuitions and expectations about numbers. personhood. it may be unmeaning. I think. there are others. ordinary uses of numbers in the West and associated intuitions about numeration in our society. identity. say.” In short. In both cases. . it violates our intuitions about living things. The explications that Christian theologians furnish respecting the individuation of the three Persons. how might he or she explain it meaningfully to others – to Atahuallpa. or. Thus even when the believer accepts it on authority that three individual divine Persons always act in complete agreement and concert. was a certain tension or paradox in the canonical texts. attempted to do so in ways that would not challenge scriptural authority or jeopardize the possibility of human salvation. opines that in speculating about “the Supreme Being. Conventional Christian theological applications of those numbers to the Godhead contravene present-day. are they entirely harmonious with the somewhat different understandings of Westerners of yesteryear. moreover. which presented Jesus as more than a man yet as distinct from God the Father. do not fully jibe with the understandings that many contemporary Westerners entertain about the nature of individualism. cognizant of that circumstance. given the fan of understandings and hopes that motivated and constrained those efforts. and that the theologians whose doctrines about it became mainstream were guided by the Holy Spirit. to those of us non-believers who have logged many hours in attendance at department meetings? In addition to the above problems. not only to number with other beings. A major problem is reconciling the Three with the One and the One with the Three. but to subject to number in regard to His own intrinsic characteristics. such as the problem of understanding (let alone translating) the concept of “eternal begetting. The unfolding doctrine of the Trinity.

” “is contentious. their harmony with expectations supported by ordinary – 204 – . sentience. Now. “Religious notions would not be interesting. that structures expectations. about living things. But it may well be so salient and consistent in the configuration and transmission of religious ideas as to mark them off from other ideas. are not merely different sorts of “person. more or less. where he observes that Religious representations typically comprise claims or statements that violate people’s ideas of what commonly takes place in their environment. and especially among those who champion “negative theology. yet located in space. does not mean that there is nothing intuitive or ordinary about religious ideas. a constellation of assumptions likely to be found. (1994: 35) Indeed. God is “wise” not in the same way that Allen Greenspan is “wise.” “is malleable”) are doctrinally declared to be inapplicable to the Persons of the Trinity. not only do religious representations violate intuitive expectations.g. at any rate. Such.” but in a special way applicable only to God. for instance. according to Boyer. however. the counter-intuitive plays important roles in human life. and so on. among people in other societies – about persons and. Persons. and intentionality are individuated. “perfect in knowledge. Further. but. “is lustful. It is. if they complied with intuitions about ordinary events and states” (1994: 48). for example.Benson Saler The Persons of the Trinity. For instance. aging and death do not affect certain beings. especially insofar as modern science transcends and subverts naive realism. some entities are described as invisible.” it is sometimes claimed that predicate terms applied to divinity do not mean the same things that they mean when applied to human persons: that.” “unchangeable. either individually or collectively. according to Pascal Boyer (1994). intangible yet capable of mechanical action on physical objects. And some of the predicate terms that are applied to the Persons of the Trinity (e. As Boyer sees it. is one of the arguments of Pascal Boyer in his complex book. Their identity. And it is often invoked to good effect in science fiction (Disch 1998). Predicates that might well apply to individual persons (e.” “one in understanding and purpose”) are not usually applied to human persons. associated with modern science. more broadly.g. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: A Cognitive Theory of Religion. the sorts of religious ideas that will be transmitted from one generation to the next – the religious ideas that will prove successful in the competition. This. as exemplars of living things. are physical objects and therefore visible. things fly in the air instead of falling to the ground. so to speak. the “living God” of mainstream Christianity. would not be attention demanding. Their intuitiveness.” They violate a constellation of ontological assumptions – a constellation of assumptions in Western societies and. among ideas for places in human memory – are those that strike an optimal cognitive balance between the intuitive and the counter-intuitive (1994: 121).

there are also likely to be significant differences.The Ethnographer as Pontifex ontological assumptions and commitments.” Boyer (1994: 121) writes.” But they also constrain the acceptability of counterintuitive claims. In addition to attempting to account for the transmission of religious ideas. The processes that we call socialization and enculturation do not account for the richness of many religious ideas. their contents are likely to be underdetermined by that process. the problem of translating is all the more difficult. . But their violation of such expectations. The “intuitive assumptions that are used in all religious representations. makes them interesting and “attention demanding. including the religious. I fully agree with that position. extra-natural agencies and processes[. Further. While ideas. and a scrupulous translator will have to take pains to avoid obscuring important differences in relevant contexts. Boyer argues that there are universal features (following Needham 1972. we humans develop rich. and those ontologies provide us with a host of expectations and intuitions in all walks of life. He aspires to explain both by working toward a complex theory of the cognitive foundations of religious ideas. Boyer links his consideration of transmission processes with his appreciation of family resemblances among religious representations in different cultural settings.] . Suffice it for present purposes to foreground only certain features of his theorizing. . in our attentions to the world. the similarities between religious ideas are a matter of family resemblance rather than universal features” (1994: 5). invests them with plausibility and renders them learnable. say. beyond our minimal recognition that in many human groups there are ideas “concerning non-observable. I prefer to say natural resemblances) in human cognition. their seeming intuitive unnaturalness “to the subjects who hold them” (1994: 3). while religious ideas are subject to selective pressures in the transmission process. These and other widely distributed cognitive resemblances both motivate and constrain the transmission of religious ideas. they are more likely to be remembered and more likely to be transmitted to the next generation than ideas that are either unexceptional or entirely counter-intuitive. however. domainspecific ontologies. Rather. for instance. People throughout the world. Boyer argues. He takes pains to point out. about witches in two societies may show appreciable conceptual overlap. and I would add that since we deal cross-culturally with resemblances rather than identities (Saler 1993. Among other things.” If the mix is right. both explicit and tacit. tend to distinguish between living things and artifacts and they develop similar general understandings of what is normal for each. Individuals enhance their religious claims by – 205 – . Boyer also attempts to account for “important recurrent features in the religious representations that can be found in very different cultural environments” (1994: vii–viii). “provide the main substance of all inferences and conjectures. 2000). that he is not postulating substantive universals in religious ideas (1994: 5).

But intelligibility purchased at the cost of fidelity is not worth much. describe and analyze beliefs in ways that mask. and to respond in similarly orderly ways to the inferences of their fellows. moreover. And. an apprehension of the unnatural or counter-intuitive. that religious believers themselves often sense something “unnatural” or counter-intuitive in their beliefs – that. emphasis added).Benson Saler making inferences from their established ontological assumptions and expectations. and artifact. Boyer argues. animal. experimental studies of concept development in children. more conventional sense. This would account for the recurrence of certain religious ideas in diverse cultural settings. plant. it enhances the prospects for warrantable explications of religious ideas across populations. minimize. is what Felipe of Puna did in mistranslating Fray Vicente’s profession of the doctrine of the Trinity: he added the numbers. of course. Boyer suggests that on the level of such macro-categories as person. on asking them to explicate and extend their assertions. I would add. Perhaps I can make my widened understanding of translation clearer by briefly comparing it to translation in a narrower. Boyer claims. Some anthropologists (e. therefore need not depend on exhaustive cultural transmissions. perhaps because of their commitments in the “rationality” debate that has occupied the attentions of many of us. That. sparks the imagination and in that wise renders the beliefs attractive. in general argument and with the support of some ethnographic examples. however inchoate. On the basis. or explain away violations of the intuitive. people throughout the world have similar ontological assumptions and expectations. thus seeming to render those beliefs less troublesome for their readers to apprehend and in some sense accept. “in order to make himself understood” (1966: 682. I have in mind “translation” – good translation – very broadly conceived. I agree with Boyer’s general argument about the counter-intuitive. uninformed. in a crude. but not apparently ideological fashion. however. of cross-cultural ethnographic data. – 206 – .g. and so can be expected to make similar inferences. The richness of religious ideas. and I recommend that we attempt to capture and convey some appreciation of our informants’ sense of it – and of the intuitive structures that render it both possible and significant – in our ethnographies. Garcilaso tells us. and certain arguments advanced by evolutionary biologists and evolutionary psychologists. but it can be fathomed. in my experience. Leach 1967). My suggestion that our ethnographies of religious ideas include explicit considerations of the counter-intuitive – and its dependence on the intuitive – is a facet of a more inclusive suggestion: that we strive for fidelity in a “global” sense. in fact. Believers may not render their sense of the “unnatural” immediately explicit.

” Garcilaso wrote. and to adapt loan words. First. His father was a conquistador. he demonstrates the polysemy of kwoth. Garcilaso had an interest in good translation. and even though his examination may not be exhaustive.The Ethnographer as Pontifex Garcilaso’s Solution and Explication The chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega. I do not know enough about the case. but also concern for minimizing stresses stemming from the incorporation of the conquered into a new order. may – 207 – . “they have to seek new words or phrases. Such explication involves the examination of contexts in which targeted expressions occur and the analysis of any encountered polysemy. A well-known example of explication is found in Evans-Pritchard’s (1956) discussion of the Nuer term kwoth. it may be recalled. When Spanish interpreters of “these times. to evaluate that claim. and he makes efforts to deal with it in ways that we. there was not only the hope of benefiting the souls of the Indians. and his mother was an Inka noble. at any rate. the form of his explication deserves admiration on two counts. If by “translation” we mean translation in the narrow sense sketched above. Translation is always motivated. to use with great care possible correspondences (glosses) across languages. In Garcilaso’s case. however. or use with great care suitably dignified expressions in the old language or else lay hands on the many words the cultured and scholarly Indians have taken from Spanish and introduced into their own languages. Evans-Pritchard examines how the term is used in different contexts. his readers. it is inadequate for anthropological purposes. These are conventional instruments of translation in a narrow sense. adapting them to their own ways of speech” (1988: 682). should subsume translation in explication. and they can be productive where the translator is sensitive and skilled. I think. Garcilaso himself traced roots to both the Indians and the Spaniards. a second cousin to Atahuallpa. however. then the anthropologist. in my opinion the task of the ethnographer is explication rather than “translation” in the narrow sense of glossing expressions in one language with terms from another or with freshly minted neologisms. Indeed. I am aware that some anthropologists suggest that Evans-Pritchard’s explication of that term is biased by his personal religious proclivities. the appearance of religious conversion). Regardless of possible inaccuracies or other deficiencies in the contents of what he writes. Although the solution endorsed by Garcilaso may serve for purposes of religious conversion (or. wish to express Christian ideas adequately. Our intellectual grasp and appreciation of key terms will be enhanced by an understanding of the domains with which they are associated in native usages. Garcilaso’s solution is to coin new terms and expressions. was concerned with how Christian ideas might be “adequately” expressed to Peruvian Indians.

These efforts will collectively support and make more convincing the anthropologist’s theorizing about the functions of religious ideas in discrete populations and in human history. Attempts.Benson Saler comprehend. and although his fame in that regard largely rests on his analysis of the “twins are birds” metaphor. constitutes “translation” in that term’s fundamental etymological senses: “transfer” and “transformation”. The ethnographer has the difficult task of conveying. Efforts at global fidelity are not solely focused on the human population under study. as accurately and as cogently as possible. moreover. I think. which may well vary from hedged or weak affirmations to those that seem vigorous and confident. conveyance depends on the artful and problem-plagued application and adjustment of categories from different sources. what he or she has come to understand about religious ideas studied in the field to an audience (often largely of other anthropologists though sometimes a wider audience) that lacks comparable knowledge and experience of the field situation. moreover. Such conveyance. It amounts to a task of mediation or bridge-building between disparate but not entirely incompatible clusters of understandings. the readership of the ethnographic monograph. weighted. and constrained by considerations relating to the eventual target audience of the ethnographic monograph. and so enlarge and potentially improve the translation task. In addition to using that audience’s “ordinary language. Yet more. And these. It is. – 208 – . indeed. In short. for not everyone in a given population may do so. his explication is alive to the significance of tropes. is required. sources that themselves answer to different interests. Efforts to achieve “global” fidelity in the ethnography of religious ideas are efforts at explication that include discussion of the environments and likely polysemy of important religious terms.” explication is also likely to involve the so-called professional analytical categories of anthropologists. should be made to assess the relative strength of professions of belief. Explication of categories and ideas encountered in the field. Second. Serious efforts should also be made to learn who professes or endorses the reported ideas. in the overwhelming majority of cases. the determination and exploration of relevant and revealing tropes. in any case. They are also inevitably motivated. he alerts us generally to how a sensitivity to tropes might expand our understandings of religious terms and expressions. is attempted in the language of the eventual target audience. both with respect to the intuitive structures and understandings that support the plausibility of religious ideas and the counter-intuitive features of those ideas that render them memorable. and systematic efforts to make explicit what is significantly implicit. something of a secular analog to what some religious communities expect of their priests. are specially refined and often contested versions of Western folk categories (see Saler 2000 [1993] for “religion”).

pontifices) was applied to the members of a college of priests.” Although we may start with the sense of “road” as crossing associated with the Sanskrit term pánthah. In the early Christian church a bishop was termed pontifex. . new understandings of others and perhaps of themselves. “this sense is no more ‘primordial’ than the others. “pons will designate the ‘crossing’ of a stream of water or a dip in the ground.” Thus in a Latin approximation to the realization of such a general signification. bridge + facio. Ethnographers not only depend on analogies in their descriptions. of ethnographic monographs. is to allow the reading public to cross over to new understandings. They were termed “bridge-builders. .The Ethnographer as Pontifex The Ethnographer as Pontifex Dictionaries and other sources in English generally state that the “literal” meaning of pontifex is “bridge-builder. but that term was eventually reserved for the Bishop of Rome. . There were probably three members in the days of the monarchy. The major purpose of ethnographic bridges. it is only one of the realizations of the general signification defined here. .” from the Latin pons. The ethnographer is. to do or to make. Benveniste opines. the leader of whom was called pontifex maximus.” A bridge crosses something. By the time of the late Republic they numbered sixteen. it has unforeseen detours. because they may have had charge of the Pons Sublicius. “implies difficulty. In contemporary Roman Catholic sources the symbolism of bridge-building. It is indeed . is often made explicit.” Its sense of crossing rather than road. and danger. a ‘crossing’ attempted over an unknown and often hostile region . An analogy is a way of establishing resemblances between things that otherwise differ.” some classicists speculate. a “bridge-builder. and they advised the king on religious matters. “explains the diversity of the documented variants. and it may facilitate our crossing. and they administered the ius divinum. a bridge over the Tiber River that was invested with a sacred significance (Bailey 1932: 162). which included the regulation of the official calendar. hence a ‘bridge’. it can vary depending on who is traversing it . but they – 209 – . the divine and the human. metaphorically.” he writes.” That particular Sanskrit term for “road. Emile Benveniste (1971 [1966]: 255–256) relates the Latin pons and the Greek pontos. one of several terms in Vedic texts for “road. In ancient Rome the term pontifex (pl. . the laws governing the state cult. of bridging two domains.” to the Sanskrit pánthah. And among the building materials utilized to construct such bridges. uncertainty. the Pope. and I use the term pontifex analogously here.” one charged with the task of facilitating a “crossing” into the sensibilities and sensitivities of others. .. “sea. Benveniste writes. creatively figured analogies and glosses are salient.

however. has accrued from our failures to prepare the ground profoundly enough on our side of the divide. Take a case put to me by the editors: Malinowski’s use (in Argonauts of the Western Pacific. there are family resemblances among the flying-witch representations in numbers of cultural settings (our witches. and certain television serials and cartoons support the understanding that not all witches are bad). Has Malinowski. We identify flying as a mode of locomotion. And we identify witches as malevolent beings who utilize magical means to harm others (although I suspect that the term was somewhat less ambiguous in Malinowski’s day. for the idea of flying witches is well established among us. Fortunately. The gloss is plausible in these ways: First. Malinowski’s gloss ‘flying witches’ is inadequate by itself. and by so doing justifies his gloss. Second. Religion. for example. As I put it elsewhere. have no term or category for what we call “religion. of course. I think that some students of religion have done a better job of exploring the religious categories of other peoples than have those of the populations for which they write. but not because of the gloss itself. “actually captured the meaning” of the Trobriand concept to which his gloss refers? I think that he has. and they can be problematic in ways that are similar to those of other forms of analogy. for example. Still and all. – 210 – . the expression is holistically meaningful. (Saler 1993: 124–125). whereas those of the Fang of Cameroon typically fly on banana leaves [Boyer 1994]). since in our time Wicca. that is. Much mischief.” but the ethnographer recognizes “religion” in their societies by observing local assertions and other behaviors reminiscent of what he or she deems to be religious behaviors elsewhere. If we suppose that there is warrant to construct bridges of some sort to span the semantic chasms that separate us from others. The Wizard of Oz. Glosses can be viewed as lexical analogies. we would do well to remember that bridges normally have two anchoring foundations.Benson Saler are beholden to them in recognizing problems and interests. when broken down into its components. Malinowski supplies more than a gloss. typically fly on broomsticks. Numbers of populations. suggests an important question: analogy to what? Ironically enough. although it is plausible both analytically and holistically. one on either side of what they span. And that. with the consequence that their analogies might not be as detailed nor as cogent as they could be. is established by analogy. I think. despite its overlap with our ideas. 1922) of the gloss ‘flying witches’ for the Kiriwinian term mulukwausi. and it is an idea that occurs in many other societies. I am asked. those resonate with our understandings. That is. He provides us with an explication of certain relevant Trobriand ideas.

A collection of quipus. “Know thyself!” Such difficulties in understanding may help explain why even persons accounted to be non-religious sometimes avail themselves of priests. Note 1. they are rendered complex by the necessity of dealing with newly encountered lexicons and grammars. Some persons claim that adequate translation is impossible. that attempts at bridge-building or crossing-over are inevitably and fatally subverted by cultural barriers encoded in language. children. and we should aim for the maximum possible. More is required if we are to cross over to warrantable understandings. As extensions. lest we forget. By referring to these records. “translating” (“glossing”) in a narrow sense is unlikely to suffice for anthropological purposes. as Boyer’s work suggests. if not completely then sufficiently enough to satisfy most of our needs. of courses. was in effect a sort of archive. parents. we encounter difficulties in understanding. Indeed. we cannot honestly claim full comprehension of our spouses. The types of knots. there is reasonable hope that such barriers can be overcome. we also experience genuine difficulty in understanding ourselves. let alone the Three Persons of the Trinity. of course. sometimes with apparent if only limited – but nevertheless gratifying – success. Yet. but we go on trying. a desideratum and an ambition. and colleagues. The quipu was a mnemonic device consisting of knots of different kinds tied in various positions on strings.The Ethnographer as Pontifex Again. For the most part. There are. as at Cajamarca. however. But there are degrees of approximation. difficulties in crossing over the barriers of language and culture. perhaps the most difficult to obey is the Delphic Imperative. and their syntactic relations to other knots were assigned semantic values that stimulated and constrained the memories of specially trained personnel. That. their locations. however. We would do well to remind ourselves that even where we suppose that we control the language and are familiar with the culture. to be sure. of all the commandments that humanity has saddled itself with. – 211 – . Indeed. those difficulties are extensions of the difficulties that we encounter in understanding others in our own society. They aver. And. Garcilaso de la Vega does what good historians normally do: he supports his narrative by citing sources for it. strikes me as too pessimistic a point of view. indeed. The “global fidelity” of which I have spoken is. unlikely ever to be achieved in full.

pp. 1987. Andrew. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Problems in General Linguistics. and Unbounded Categories. 1956. Brian K. Dutton. Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1966: 39–49. 2000 [1993]. New York: Dover. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Harold V. 1961 [1922]. 1998. Berkeley: University of California Press. “Virgin Birth”. John. Belief. Alan Lee. Summa contra gentiles. Emile. Book IV. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Woodfield. Berkeley: The University of California Press. Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome. Boyer. and Experience. 1985 [1889. 1971 [1966].). Smith. Nuer Religion. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Charles J. Part Two. El Inca. 32–55. Newman. trans. Kolp. Saler. Placher. The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World. Disch. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. Vega. Language. Conceptualizing Religion: Immanent Anthropologists. 1972. Harvard University.” History of Religions 27(1). Thomas M. Austin: University of Texas Press. Benson. 1975. v–xi. Bronislaw. J. “Foreword. 1994. – 212 – . Brill. Rodney. Pascal. Garcilaso de la. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1967. Bailey. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas. Cyril. Benveniste. Oxford: Clarendon. Leiden: E. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books. “Exorcising the Transcendent: Strategies for Defining Hinduism and Religion.” In Thought and Object: Essays on Intentionality.Transcendent Natives. Leach. dissertation. Andrew Woodfield (ed. Locke. trans. Paperback Edition with a new Preface. 1983. 1975. A Cognitive Theory of Religion. William C. P. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Participation: A Unifying Concept in the Theology of Athanasius. Evans-Pritchard. New York: The Free Press. Needham. trans. Oxford: Clarendon. O’Neil.D. Malinowski. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press. Mary Elizabeth Meek. Edmund. Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Edward E. pp. Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru. 1870].Benson Saler References Aquinas. 1959 [1689]. John Henry. 1932. Thomas. Unpublished Ph. Livermore. 1966. New York: E. 1982.

In short. I intend to investigate some of the strangest literature of the ancient world. In all its various editions and versions. Yet the Bible is not really the book we think it is. If Genesis 12 be taken as the beginning of history in the Bible. Editorials. it still outsells every other book. Segal Bible Translation and Translation to Heaven I will deliberately confuse two different uses of translation – (1) a meaning carried from one language to another with (2) a soul carried from earth to heaven. But the process of producing these mystic meanings is deeply involved in the translation of Biblical texts into new idioms and the hermeneutic process in general. Sermons in churches and synagogues are largely devoted to the argument that the Bible does and should apply directly to our lives. Ta Biblia. Scholarship has been able to isolate the time and – 213 – . then we go back a fictional 5759 years. an anthology of little books (its name in Greek. literally means “the little books”) stretching from approximately 1300 BCE (or BC) to the First Century of our era. literary works. first of all. more or less. But the problems with understanding the Bible come from its very ubiquity. the Bible is a very strange and exotic book that does not share many of our moral and cultural assumptions directly. advertisements and even cartoons remind us of the Bible’s importance to our culture and society. it is. Translation as a literary art is an ancient and complicated issue in biblical studies. then the book can be said to cover history from about the Eighteenth Century BCE.” No book is more important to Western civilization than the Bible and no book has been more often or more self-consciously translated.–9– Text Translation as a Prelude for Soul Translation Alan F. If the creation is taken as its starting point. Rabbi Simlai once quipped that translation is an impossible task: “He who translates is a heretic but he who refuses to translate is a blasphemer. where the metaphor of translation to heaven also expresses a biblical concept of ecstasy. Everyone thinks that he or she understands it because powerful contemporary social institutions continually convince us of its relevance. But let us start with its plain meaning before we get to its mystic meaning.

Alan F. it has editors. a Latin translation of the LXX. though still a long time by historical reckoning. so “septuagints” were in use there even before this famous story of its composition circulated: According to legend. interpretative “retranslation. the Greeks. the Bible would seem to us a very strange and unusual work. Translations of the Bible into Aramaic. who have made a selection about what the collection should contain and occasionally supplied hints about their varying and sometimes contradictory principles of composition and goals. The purpose of these translations was to render clearly passages that seemed obscure to a community whose tongue had evolved – first to a new dialect. the Bible is hardly a unity in either composition or purpose. leaving Latin only for later official correspondence. These empires ruled Palestine through Aramaic and then Greek mostly. Rather. Segal reasons for some of the contents of the Bible. Just as with the passage of time itself. demonstrating that it was written over a much shorter period than it claims. the Persians. wanted to know the seemingly – 214 – . successor to the Pharaohs and descendant of Alexander the Great’s general. meaning interpretation or figuratively. hence abbreviated LXX and really a series of different texts too) was used in the Jewish community by the Third Century BCE. Israel fell under the domination of the Babylonians. This process can be exemplified within the Bible itself as well as in all the important translations of the Bible’s text throughout the ages. Ptolemy Philadelphos.” Without this constant process of translation and hermeneutics. called Targums. then to a new language and finally to a new language family. But it is an illusion that has gone on since the Bible was assembled and it is an illusion that has a decent future in front of it. new translations of the Bible’s text became necessary to allow the scriptural community access to it. though in the land of Israel there is evidence that educated people spoke all three. the Greek-speaking Jewish community of Alexandria in Hellenistic Egypt could not understand the Hebrew of the original document. The Vulgate. but this merely underlines the remarkable success of the process. Translation or the hermeneutic process generally gives us the impression of the Bible’s timeliness. For instance. called the Septuagint (from the word “70” in Latin. as the language of the dominant power changed. innovations sometimes great enough to call forth a new divine revelation for justification. Innovations too were often hidden in the translation. So our notion that it applies to us and has a message for us is the result of a constant process of hermeneutics. being an anthology. became the Scripture of Western European Christianity until the Reformation. Thus. and the Romans. As history progressed. The history of Bible translation itself shows us the constant need of translation. and a definitive translation into Greek. an illusion purchased at the expense of historical accuracy. the passage of time itself naturally raises the issue of translation and hermeneutics for any scriptural community. To scholars.

preventing easy generalizations about the LXX’s theory of translation. The Septuagint was in some ways a more controlled translation but in other ways it was equally a commentary. the meturgemans noticeably even introduced technical names for God’s hypostases into the text to avoid saying anything which might seem primitive or uncomplimentary about God. He also said that everything in the Bible could be understood allegorically but only some things could be understood literally – a rather modern hermeneutic strategy. If Scripture were going to be the only authority and – 215 – . the ancient translations are at best tricky tools. posited that in commenting one must guard against saying anything unworthy of God. Orthographic conventions in some LXX versions seem to be based on the Palestinian custom of not pronouncing God’s name. For anyone who knows academia this miracle ranks with the creation of the world.Text Translation/Soul Translation secret truths of the Jews. He could certainly have derived that rule from studying the Septuagint.1 Although contemporary biblical scholarship values the skill and consistency of the translations of the Targums and the LXXs as important witnesses to ancient understanding of the Bible’s refractory text. Many targumic passages resemble midrash as much as translation. With this flimsy justification. of course. and even Aquinas’ summae could be couched as biblical commentaries. a wealthy and important Alexandrian Jewish Bible commentator of the First Century. The writers of the LXX allowed themselves less freedom than Philo allotted to himself. since Aramaic is grammatically and lexically close to Hebrew. the innovations in religious conceptions which were hidden inside the new document. The Targums could be quite literal. Neither the Septuagints nor the Targums are notably literal in their rendering of Hebrew syntax or concepts. Philo’s allegorical theory remained the dominant method for interpreting scripture in the West and certainly helped explain how his. It also justified the still suspect process of translation and. Philo Judaeus. Even so. presumably as the result of their sensitivity to something in the ancient text. And there is no doubt that the LXX was also a profound reinterpretation of the meaning of the Hebrew text. Maimonides’. often making simple word-for-word translation feasible. By a miracle they all came up with the same translation. especially anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms. had he known enough Hebrew to compare the two. Various important ways of dealing with God’s attributes or appearances or physical shape were developed. the meturgemans often produced rather long elaborations. He therefore commissioned a school of advanced studies on Pharos Island in the Nile delta. were often rendered in more abstract form – though not entirely. But Philo’s work shows us something else important – how the translation was accepted and used and with what freedom the translation could be taken. Difficult or primitive notions. building 70 small offices to be filled with the most skilled translators. we can skip to the Reformation when a more literal school of biblical translation came into vogue.

however. which translated the verse into Latin as: “A virgin shall conceive and bear a child . when the Christian community responded to the Jewish charge that the doctrine was based on a mistranslation. so I will simplify wherever possible. a relatively rare term. The translation of the Hebrew ‘almah by the LXX parthenos is not necessarily wrong. their focus was turned not to the translation itself but the force of the Hebrew. It is in that context that I wish to bring you two different problems in translation – one quite short. thus the Hebrew says only that a girl will conceive and bear a child. the temple to the virgin Athena). doctrinal. For instance. This New Testament doctrine is proof-texted in Isaiah 7:14. Most contemporary Bible translations are as slavishly literal as the two languages will allow. the other very complex – in an attempt to point to some methodological issues. which clearly and unambiguously means young woman? Could it be that ‘almah meant virgin after all?3 That pattern is exemplary of many hermeneutical problems in scriptural religions: every significant translation problem also conceals an even more significant problem in changing cultural forms or religious ideas because so much can hinge on one verse of scripture. Although the Vulgate is clearly reflecting NT doctrine. – 216 – . Otherwise. . Indeed. comparative Semitics and intense word studies were considered the basic method for removing dogmatic. the Greek translation provided the possibility for the development of a new meaning: The Greek translated parthenos for ‘almah and then the NT doctrine arose with the translation already in place.2 But in Hebrew the “virgin” is merely a young woman (‘almah). For a while. let us take the famous example of the Virgin Birth. for instance directly with a new prophetic revelation. Of course. and denominational biases. We shall return to this paradigm later. a word which usually but not always means virgin (like the Parthenon. rather. Why had the Hebrew text used ‘almah. In our postmodern world this seems naively optimistic. Segal the believer the ultimate judge. so it represents an opportunity for pinning on a new doctrine. . it has some justification for its word choice because the young woman in Hebrew was already previously translated as parthenos in Greek. this process stimulated and then was furthered by the development of “scientific” or disinterested criticism of the Bible. the doctrine would have to be validated in other ways. in the Second Century. every aspect of Bible translation has been studied and reviewed thousands of times. Whether or not the virgin birth arose as a mistranslation. In going from the Jewish community to a gentile community (the vector being Hellenistic Judaism and then early Christian preaching). in place of the ordinary na’arah. as understood by the Vulgate. is a moot point. the meaning of the text changed radically to resonate in an environment where the sexual relations between gods and virgins signalled the birth of a hero. especially in Departments of Near Eastern Studies around the world. then Scripture would have to be provided in a form that every believer could immediately apprehend. Of course.” (virgo concipiet et pariet filium).Alan F.

some to everlasting life. like the stars forever and ever. a Problem of Cultural Translation The major problem which I want to bring up is how modern scholars and religious persons interpret and translate terms indicating religiously altered states of consciousness (RASC. Jesus takes the authority to change the law himself) or Peter’s vision that all food was suitable for Christian consumption (Acts 10:9–29. Novel interpretations were legitimated by direct revelation. while RISC is a term which would satisfy any modern observer. (Daniel 12:2) * or the land of dust ** or dome – 217 – . and some to shame and everlasting contempt.** and those who lead many to righteousness. Matt 19:1–12. either from Jesus directly in the Gospels or from his disciples and apostles. haphazardly preserved. In this respect many are miles behind the methodological sophistication achieved in Anthropology but. Claims to religiously altered states of consciousness are an especially difficult question for modern religious exegetes who either want to show that their own religion is rational or. including states of consciousness which are often suspiciously “abnormal” to moderns. whether granting the validity of the religious experience or not. where Peter has an ecstatic vision). in the prophecy of Daniel 12:2f. textual scholars have more difficulty squeezing information out of refractory. But I will try to show that RISC and RASC were not only very important in Hebrew thought but. if you will. they help us understand how change enters religious communities. in fairness. often in RASC.5 Any detailed notion of an afterlife had been banished for so long from biblical literature that when it appeared for the first time. for short). justifying changes in translation and interpretation. like the legend of the LXX. and often fragmentary ancient texts than field workers have squeezing out of unco-operative informants. For instance. RASC is often the description of the native actor. its belated presence required special revelatory authority: Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth* shall awake. for short) or religiously interpreted states of consciousness (RISC. but certainly often a RASC – within the early Christian community.4 The Bible often records that its texts were received by inspired prophecies of various kinds. Good examples would be Jesus’ hardline preaching about divorce (Mk 10:1–12.Text Translation/Soul Translation Inspired Texts and Religiously Interpreted States of Consciousness. it is impossible to understand how Christianity gained the authority to reevaluate scripture without beginning with the Christian notion of the presence of the Holy Spirit – the spirit of prophecy. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky. at least. want to explain religious phenomena in rational terms. Thus.

with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. alone saw the vision. but certainly well known as a medium for God’s Word. as the stars were conventionally understood as a kind of angel (See Judges 3:20 and Job 38:7). But the notion of resurrection needs an even greater justification. the apocalyptic literature of the first centuries BCE and CE (or BC and AD) may credibly be understood as having developed out of real visions (RASCs) and dreams (RISCs). for the full three weeks. face to the ground. the Tigris). his face like lightning. and I retained no strength. his eyes like flaming torches. Segal This passage essentially outlines a novel idea. I. Then he wrote down the dream. as dreams are being used to justify the revelatory nature of the information gained. Daniel 7 represents the new dispensation as having arrived in revelatory dream visions. and I had not anointed myself at all. since the story of Joseph. Daniel. his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze. had been mourning for three weeks. and when I heard the sound of his words. Daniel. Sheol is very often parallel simply to “the grave” in Hebrew poetry. But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees. In fact. I take this to be an example of a religiously interpreted state of consciousness (RISC). I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen. It is revealed not in a dream but in an ecstatic vision (hayyπι niRdam). Then I heard the sound of his words. My strength left me. the people who were with me did not see the vision. no meat or wine had entered my mouth. From my perspective then. Like the ancient world. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month. though we would not usually grant them prophetic power. as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is. and told the sum of the matter” (Daniel 7:1). and they fled and hid themselves. a place of darkness much like Hades. – 218 – . though a great trembling fell upon them. Such a major change in a scripturally based religion takes a very special kind of justification. and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. His body was like beryl. (Daniel 10:2–10) This experience is like the previous dream in that it is being interpreted as a religious experience but it is clearly a higher and more potent form of religious experience in the opinion of the narrator. not the usual method for the literary prophets. and my complexion grew deathly pale. a religiously altered state of consciousness (RASC): At that time I. resurrection.Alan F. So I was left alone to see this great vision. Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. I had eaten no rich food. I fell into a trance [italics added]. which culminates in some of the leaders (“those who are wise”) being transformed into angels. Daniel thus needs a new revelation to promulgate his new ideas: “In the first year of Belshaz’zar king of Babylon. Resurrection and translation to heaven followed by astral immortality for some of the leaders entered Israelite thought together. Before this the dead were usually thought to go to Sheol. we certainly grant that ordinary people have dreams.

This applies equally to Protestants. The biggest differences in American religions today are to be found between the liberal and mainline denominations on the one hand and the evangelicals. But scholars also have scholarly and well-documented reasons for their skepticism of these revelations.6 And certainly few modern scholars would admit that the seers actually took trips to heaven.”7 This left room for scholars of Judaism of a more rational persuasion to demur. Adam. who virtually invented the field of Jewish mysticism as an object of study. Since we know that the attribution to Daniel. Merkabah mysticism. Catholics. I will show that some believing Jews and Christians and many modern scholars have remained skeptical about their revelatory content. as the texts maintain. Abraham. (Schäfer 1981. he never adequately described what he meant by “mysticism. Then too. Peter Schäfer. it is natural to suspect that the experience narrated in them is equally spurious. Paul and the prophets are often more comfortably treated as social critics and theologians rather than as ecstatic preachers and visionaries. The History of the Study of Biblical RISC and “Jewish Mysticism” Although Gershom Scholem. in a famous article in the Scholem Festschrift. conservatives. writing on the later hekhaloth (“Palaces”) material in Jewish. evangelical. Although Daniel and most subsequent apocalypses describe a variety of revelatory experiences. Catholics. For instance. apocalyptic truths can be doubted because many apocalyptic books are not part of the canon. since many Americans prefer their religion rational. not between Protestants. He suggested that especially the talmudic texts had no original mystical content and that the rabbis themselves practiced no more than “ascetic ecstasy” (whatever that may mean). Ephraim Urbach. 1984. and Jews. questioned whether the texts themselves claimed actual mystical experience (Urbach 1967). and fundamentalist groups do. Belief in a literal resurrection is one of the most obvious and clear indicators of that gulf: liberal and mainline denominations do not take the ancient ideas literally while the conservative. Like Daniel. Gullup and Castelli 1989). suggested that the basic early mystical texts are considerably younger in their present form than Scholem thought and contain little visionary material. For the faithful. and Jews (Gallup and Proctor 1982. certainly believed that there was a continuous tradition of RASC and RISC in Judaism.Text Translation/Soul Translation which provide the basic authority and justification for the innovation. and fundamentalists on the other. 1991). even though some modern religious skeptics might doubt the reality of the experience and modern religionists might want to translate the religious experience into more rational terms that can be more readily accepted by a modern religious audience. the vast majority of the apocalyptic documents are pseudonymously attributed to patriarchal and antediluvian biblical heroes. Ezra and the rest must be spurious. – 219 – .

this hallucinatory “experience” itself cries out for explanation. Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (1993). see also his 1980) makes innumerable new and very fine points about the development of the tradition of the Merkabah (mrkbh). This fallacy seems to me to dog much of Scholem’s presentation. whereas. They were a kind of faulty exegesis or even hallucination: Scholem’s stress on the reality of the Merkabah mystics’ ecstatic experiences can be misleading.8 Every scholar right now must begin with a critique of Gershom Scholem. she follows David Halperin’s and Peter Schäfer’s skepticism of actual visionary experience in the hekhaloth texts. eliminating many apocalypses where ecstasy – 220 – . Events experienced as real do have real consequences for the people experiencing them. He begins by narrating a conversation between him and his teacher Isadore Rabinowitz. But she takes this scepticism about RASC backward in time to the Jewish and Christian apocalypses of the first few centuries. 7) In spite of Halperin’s many accomplishments in this book. on this fundamental issue Scholem’s position is the more rational. He did not. Though she admits the widespread presence and valorization of visionary experience in Hellenistic culture in general and in Philo Judaeus. However. In her relatively recent book. the throne chariot which Ezekiel saw (Ez 1) and which carried a figure which the text calls “the Glory of the Lord” (Ez 1:26). the one scholar who perspicaciously noticed a continuous mystical tradition in Judaism – all the more remarkable as modern Jews overwhelmingly wanted to present Judaism as a rational religion based on a revealed law. of course. But it is easy to slip from this into the illusion that we can explain the ascension materials in the apocalypses and the Hekhalot by pointing to the supposed reality of the experience underlying them. Halperin criticized Scholem for thinking that the texts could have any valid religious experience. She further restricts her purview only to those texts which explicitly discuss ascent.” Martha Himmelfarb’s research is also characteristic of the reaction to Scholem’s valorization of the ecstatic dimension of Jewish mysticism. (p. she eliminates any of these texts from consideration because they are mystical texts or philosophical treatises and not Jewish or Christian apocalypses. in which he decides to begin the project of the book by distinguishing between the “true” and “false” exegeses of Ezekiel 1. he remains unreceptive to the notion that there was any religious experience present in these texts. but that they “really” believed that they had done so. indeed more rational than Christianity. The forced choice between hallucination and exegesis is fallacious. of course.Alan F. even if they are influenced by exegesis and even if they seem to us “hallucinations” because they recount events which we assume to be impossible or which take place only “internally. Segal David Halperin’s The Faces of the Chariot (1988. mean that they “really” ascended to heaven.

” which is a slippery category. the early apocalypses were merely literary creations. In the process she eliminates a good many valuable examples of RISC or RASC experience from consideration. For Himmelfarb. This hypothesis. they taught their readers to imagine themselves like Enoch. e. But this term itself is confusing because “rapture” is the same term that especially Christian fundamentalists use to describe the salvation of the just at the apocalypse. No such claim can be made for the ascent apocalypses [I. of the status of the righteous in the universe. not by mystical praxis. In the midst of an often unsatisfactory daily life. She uses this term because she wishes to emphasize that the heavenly journey comes unbidden. for it is only an hypothesis. Their stories performed no task. her conception is rather similar to thinking that the Virgin Birth is purely a translation problem and reflects no social realities in Hellenistic Judaism and the early Church. Himmelfarb suggests we talk only about a literary motif of “rapture. and they effected nothing outside the mind of the reader. with no apparent difference. is to my way of thinking incorrect in a number of ways. was unable to dissuade her. no claim for actual religious ritual or ascent]. There is no religious experience in the texts at all: No need for the mystic to ascend. To begin with. the purpose of which was to give solace to a demoralized community. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (1989) which forcefully demonstrates that meditative experiences were regularly sought by Jewish mystics. for telling the story is enough. and is not in any way under the control of the mystagogue. Reading them was not a ritual act. (p. based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13f and 2 Thessalonians 2. If I read them correctly. based on the notion that the ascent can be explained in the apocalypses purely in a literary way. therefore as a totally literary motif and not mystical. we should read the text as merely conforming to a literary convention. She then maintains that wherever the texts say that the seer is having a religious experience.Text Translation/Soul Translation is claimed and the contents of the heavens or divine plans for history are discussed without an explicit ascent narrative. Even the exceptionally well-reasoned book of Moshe Idel. The readers of the texts did not even use them to ascend vicariously to the heavens through the process of reading. In place of religious experience. Himmelfarb’s position is not naive rationalism. the era of the great rabbis of the Mishnah. needs to be carefully considered and. I think. that goes beyond anything found in the Bible and was profoundly appealing to ancient Jews and Christians. rejected soundly. Her dismissal of ecstasy. – 221 – . like the glorious ones. The actual performance of the acts is attributed to a mystic past. which is where stories always perform their work. which I will try to correct as we go along. 114)9 This position thoroughly confuses the experience of the creators of the text with that of the readers. their most important accomplishment was to suggest an understanding of human possibility. recitation itself has become the ritual.

first of all. Categories of authenticity are seldom simple. It does not immediately relegate the writing to fraud and fiction – even in the way that. Nor can we question an actual adept as we might in contemporary fieldwork. Pseudonymity and Fraud in RISC We must.10 Lévi-Strauss. Segal We must be clear about something very fundamental: we cannot ever know the experience of another directly. How much more so in the case of experience narrated in text. for example. Carlos Castaneda’s books are now regarded. Yet. one cannot merely doubt the religious value of a text because of modern skepticism about the possibility of ascending to heaven as is so often reported in ancient Jewish texts. not in Palestine in the Second Century by Rabbi Simon bar Yohai and his circle. in his famous seminal essay “the Sorcerer and his Magic” (1983). in a novel or poem. Authenticity is very similar. say. The sincerity of any historical writer is extremely hard if not impossible to evaluate without more extra-literary evidence. We live in a world where we cannot actually be sure that we all experience the color red in the same way. To do so we must equally doubt all ancient texts. We can sense irony. We cannot automatically move from written word to the narrator’s state of mind. but without knowing some things about the writer it is often very hard to specify what kind of irony it is. Because of Scholem. The question is not what the experience is in itself. The question which Himmelfarb asks therefore boils down to one of religious authenticity: are they religious texts or are they frauds. Pseudonymous authorship does not automatically disqualify the work from being religious or accurate or real experience and certainly does not render a text useless. develop a little more sophistication in dealing with the question of pseudonymity and authenticity. narrated the case of a sorcerer who candidly admitted to tricking the audience. even if they presuppose journeys which are literally impossible? At first. we know that the Zohar was written in Spain in the Thirteenth Century by Moses of León and his circle. fraudulently purporting to be from the ancient personages to whom they are ascribed? Can the scholar imagine that these experiences were legitimate and authentic.Alan F. All we have are the texts. historical novels pretending to be the actual religious experience of prophets in the way that Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe pretends to be the journal entries of a shipwrecked sailor? Is there any religious experience behind the texts or are they merely novels. Yet. even the ones which Himmelfarb accepts as revelatory. That does not mean that it is not important for understanding the religiosity of the Thirteenth Century. – 222 – . the whole question seems inappropriate. The question is really that of what is being claimed for the experience and of how the claims are validated and competing claims adjudicated.

and also people do have unbidden RASCs not under their conscious control. the pre-literary prophets. The earliest prophets in Israelite history. The rules and clues within the society differ. depending on whether possession or trance is expected of revelations and.11 All of these issues seem to say that religious experiences can be faked easily and frequently by people wishing to claim the charismatic authority that comes from revelation. most often these judgments are due to the social position of the actors in the situation. of which Nathan. On the other hand. In 1 Kings 22 Micaiah ben Imlah. a brief history is in order. In other words. But usually the practitioner in the end learns to think of his or her contribution as sincere if the role played is highly regarded in the society. although there were some strict conventions about conceptualizing them. God’s Word could come to prophets through a variety of paranormal means – mostly through dreams and auditions. and Elisha are merely the most famous. People learn what is expected of certain roles. the sorcerer felt that the tricks improved the effectiveness of the cure because some patients were healed. they are perspectival within the society. alternatively. describes a complete scene in the heavenly throne room which he saw through prophetic vision. sincerity. During the process. Furthermore. about the relationship between technique. especially in societies and cultures where such events are expected. RISC in Ancient Hebrew Culture Neither ecstasy nor possession nor the techniques to achieve it were foreign to Israel. The conclusion of the deliberation is that God appoints a spirit to mislead all his legitimate prophets so as to ensnare Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead. the practitioner can have a wide variety of cognitions. But since RASC has been disputed in Israelite culture. both consonant and dissonant. a lesser-known but very important prophet. could receive messages from God by paranormal means. the decisions may be entirely due to social processes. there is a clear process of socialization where the practitioner comes to learn what is expected of him or her by the guild and the populace. In other words. anthropological literature is full of examples of the ways cultures can distinguish between effectiveness and sincerity of ecstatics and healers. People in many traditional societies are quite sophisticated in discovering feigned possession and insanity. On the other hand. Elijah.12 In this narrative RASC is described among the bands of prophets who were Micaiah’s rivals as – 223 – . (Ripinsky-Naxon 1993). but also in waking visions. and effectiveness.Text Translation/Soul Translation even in this case. the perpetrator of a fraud can still think that his healings or visions are valid. it also suggests that the qualifications for real vision do not entirely depend on what the subject intends at the time. where he will die (1 Kings 22:19–23). RASC and RISC were regular features of pre-literary Israelite prophetic culture.

but they also function as indicators of RASC in prophecy. Ecstatic behavior was also sometimes criticized. because they are universally admired as great literary creations and it is hard to know how trance. what kinds of trance and possession were found among them. in fact. I think it would be unwise merely to dismiss this evidence as a mere idiom. The scene is a dream vision (Dan. Segal well. are technical terms expressing human resemblance to God and God’s ability to appear as a human. Indeed. suggests a variety of different techniques. and we see an explosively subversive notion that God can deliberately mislead some of His prophets to effect His own designs. appearance and image. Israelite culture was parochial and rural by comparison to the civilized conventions in the great river valleys. 7:2) and the preposition “k” (“like” or “as”) makes clear that the experience is understood to be unusual and paranormal. if anything. And these defined roles were by no means unique among Ancient Near Eastern cultures. Saul and David were both criticized for dancing amid the prophets. we remember that we are explicitly being told about a RISC.Alan F. The scene is actually God’s heavenly throne-room with two manlike – 224 – . Daniel and Apocalyptic Writings Apocalypticism is a literary form in which the writer reveals (the Greek verb apokalypto means “I uncover”) heavenly secrets. both terms. For instance. In Daniel 7. We see the same conventions three centuries later in the book of Daniel. There are ample precedents for the role of these religiously altered states of consciousness in the neighboring cultures of the ancient Near East. our knowledge of the vocabulary of RISC is greatly aided by the literary prophets. since there are equally a wide variety of behaviors and consciousnesses describable by trance or ecstasy. if so. So notions of role differentiation were evolving even in the earliest period of Israelite culture. at least for potential rulers. It seems to start as prophecy is waning and continues the literary traditions which are found in prophecy. ecstasy. The only thing we can say for sure is that the Spirit of the Lord continues to possess the literary prophets and gives them legitimacy. we cannot be sure precisely whether trance and possession was characteristic of all the prophets and. It is not known whether or how these related experiences correspond to the literary prophetic books in the canon. and literary creation went together for Israelite prophets.13 Bible scholars sharply diverge on the role of RISC in the formation of literary prophecy (those prophets who left us books). Indeed. usually concerning the operation of the universe and final disposition of the righteous and sinners and the end of time. the most obvious apocalyptic book in the Bible. Though we know that dancing and wild antics were sometimes reported of prophetic guild members. The evidence. We cannot even be sure that they all used the same techniques.

the principal human manifestation of God – an angel if you will. God appearing in two different forms at once is very puzzling and it clearly innovates in a very daring way on the notion that God can appear as human or not. Novelistic imagination could not have done the trick for the ancients. signifying that the next figure in the vision was shaped like a man and reminding us that this is not Daniel’s usual consciousness. All this would be conventional except for one thing: there are two different manifestations of God. Son of man is not a title and can only mean the divine figure has a human form because the phrase “son of man” usually means simply a human being in most Semitic languages. Daniel sees a human figure. in such a traditional culture no one could make up such a heretical scene as two divinities who are one without relying on some divine sanction. for some angels were envisioned in human form. is being translated and conditioned by the writings of Ezekiel. in whose form God deigns to appear. one old (“The Ancient of Days”) and the other young (“the son of man”). In fact. an angel “shaped in the likeness of a man” (kdemuth bnei adam). the text tells us that. The exact phrase in Daniel is “one like a son of man” (kbar ‘enash). No exegete would have spelled out such a heretical implication. The prophet stays on earth in his bed but at the same time he is translated to heaven at the same time as he translates the Ezekiel passage into more personal experience. So a reflection of real experience is quite obvious. The big question is: “What kind of experience is it?” Well. probably as before. Somehow the experience of the later prophet. Again in Daniel 10:16.” probably an angel. At his second appearance. quite unique in the biblical canon in fact. writing under the pseudonym of Daniel. is described in a way reminiscent of Ezekiel’s description of God’s glory. It cannot be merely exegesis of the Ezekiel passage because there is so much manifestly new material in it. in biblical Aramaic and in the post-biblical dialect barnasha).14 It is hard to imagine that anything other than a “prophetic dream” would have made this heretical scene possible! The Daniel passage is based upon the Ezekiel passage but no one would say that it is simple exegesis. At the same time the prophet incorporates all kinds of new experience including the Canaanite mythological image into his scene. since it suggests that there may be more than one divinity.Text Translation/Soul Translation figures. The hypothesis that we have a transcript of the dream-vision – with the attendant caveat that all discursive – 225 – . In Daniel 10:5 “a man clothed in linen. The best guess as to the identity of the figure shaped like a man is that he is simply the Glory of the Lord. the Kavod YHWH. If this is not a vision then it ought to be. Gabriel is described as “the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at first” (9:21). Behind this passage is originally a Canaanite mythologem describing El’s enthronement of his son Ba’al but no one knows how it has become a “kosher” vision. it’s a dream vision. one an “Ancient of Days” and the second a “son of man” (bar enash.

Many of the traditions found in the Enoch cycle are excellent examples. we know that biblical text thought to contain the Word of God was transcribed very conservatively. “a lofty throne”) the frequent mention of fire and certain key words like “lightning” and “crystal. the specific details of the vision in 4 Ezra are brought about. indeed it is totally anathema to any educated Hebrew exegesis. Thus. according to the text. reorganized through RISC: “It is most unlikely that a careful interpreter of Daniel 7 would have linked the divine envoy with the home of the beasts and thereby deliberately linked the divine with the demonic in the way in which we find it in this chapter” (p.Alan F. there are very few actual contacts. that the man (vir perfectus) who rises from the sea is an allusion to Daniel 7 and. The ascent texts appear to flesh out various biblical texts into a vision of heavenly reward and punishment. Apart from the reference to the throne which is just as much influenced by Isaiah 6:1 (see 1 Enoch 14:18. But the most obvious way to describe the relationships between the two sets of texts is that the biblical quotations were read – 226 – . most especially. verse 13. This kind of mélange of images is not the result of exegesis. 218). But the chapters from Ezekiel and Isaiah are clearly informing the Enoch texts. we must not completely deny the idea that somewhere along the line. we are constantly given the details of Daniel 12 spelled out in many ways. one that is beholden to RASC.” who comes with the clouds of heaven. not just by dream visions but induced by fasting and mourning. They do not comment on the text and produce a commentary. where the beasts are said to arise from the sea.” as well as the reference to the wheels of the merkabah (14:18). Segal language implies some interpretation – is the best explanation for the event. But from early texts that we do have. which describes the “son of man. a literary copyist glossed some of the biblical material. But the characteristics of the text remain the same. allusions to figures rising from the sea come from earlier in the chapter. We see the leaders rewarded with heavenly immortality as stars and the very worst of the sinners punished for having persecuted the righteous. Christopher Rowland (1982: 217f. but there are very few precise contacts. Even more obvious is the relationship between the various ascent texts in Enoch and their biblical forebears. A very interesting relationship between biblical texts and those found in Enoch is formed by the elements from chapter 1 of Ezekiel and Isaiah 6. However.) describes the way in which apocalyptic material relates to its biblical past. for instance in 4 Ezra 12:11. He notes. Now. They seemingly combine the images at will and come up with a detailed new narrative which uses the fragmentary images of the Bible to forge a new story of consolation. We have no way of knowing how many changes may have entered the text before it is witnessed in the archeological record. Of course. The good are rewarded and the evil punished. The theophany in 1 Enoch 14:8ff is clearly related to the theophany in Ezekiel. but actually the result of meditation on the whole chapter.

And there are two mishnayoth which the tannaim taught regarding this topic. and mantralike prayers. 193 n.Text Translation/Soul Translation and understood by people who studied them carefully and then they became parts of the dreams and visions which they experienced. called Hekhaloth Rabbati and Hekhaloth Zutreti. Jewish Mysticism as Continuous with Prophecy and Apocalypticism In Jewish mysticism. in the Hellenistic period. “Measure of the Stature. like in all preceding and succeeding centuries. glossolalic incantations. One must fast a number of days and place one’s head between one’s knees and whisper many hymns and songs whose texts are known from tradition. (see Saake 1973. is to “see the King in His beauty” (Grünwald 1980: 156. Strangely enough. which makes them available later as the bits of experience out of which the ascensions are formulated. 4). – 227 – . In the Ninth Century. and charms of the hekhaloth (“Palaces”) literature. or theurgy. Hai Gaon recounts that the journey to view this divine figure was undertaken by mystics who put their heads between their knees (the posture Elijah assumed when praying for rain in 1 Kings 18:42).15 They also certainly valued ecstasy or trance as a medium for revelation and developed techniques for signaling that ecstasy or trance was occurring. in mantra-like phrases which are evidently meant to promote contemplation and trance – like the songs. spells.16 while reciting repetitious psalms. the so-called Shiur Koma Literature (vy[wr qwmh. one must follow a certain procedure. So I am saying that Jews of the First Centuries BCE and CE. One stated purpose of Merkabah mysticism. the magic use of shamanic techniques to stimulate these “out-of-body” experiences. This vocabulary in Greek was known to Paul and became a central aspect of Paul’s explanation of the Christian message (Kim 1984: 214). These beliefs pervaded Jewish culture as well and enriched Jewish spirituality. ascension. these terms rightly became associated with the language of translation in two senses – in the translation of the texts and also in the sense of ascent. Then one perceives the chambers as if one saw the seven palaces with his own eyes. and it is as though one entered one palace after another and saw what is there.” meaning speculation on the measurements of the divine stature of God) gives the exact measurements of each organ and appendage of God’s angelic human manifestation. The reading is the process by which the seer assimilates details of the text into memory. As we have seen. which are recorded in abundance in the hekhaloth literature: When one seeks to behold the Merkabah and the palaces of the angels on high. Benz 1952). took RASC very seriously. the same language also seemed to the ancients to suggest something very deep and mystical about the way in which humans resembled God and conversely how God could be figured in human form. as it is outlined in the hekhaloth texts.

Even if they now contain some further additions. Ecstatic experience was present in biblical prophecy. The Gaon is aware of the mystical techniques for heavenly ascent and describes them as “out-of-body” experiences where the adept ascends to heaven while his body stays on earth. By the Second Temple period. and Schäfer on the issue of the reality of the experience: Bearing the inherently symbolic nature of the visionary experience in mind. the human figure on the throne. Elliot R. details which we learn from the texts themselves. it was present in the Hellenistic world.” or should these visions be read as psychological accounts of what may be considered – 228 – . The easiest hypothesis is that it was present in the Jewish and Christian apocalypses as well. texts called Hekhaloth Rabbati and Hekhaloth Zutreti have survived. Did the Merkabah mystics actually ascend to the celestial realm and did they see something “out there. It takes issue with Halperin. But that is precisely what makes it so important to the understanding of the sect that produced Daniel or the early Christians. a revelation which arrived through the media of dreams and visions to a nameless seer whom we know only as Daniel in approximately 165 BCE. Wolfson’s (1994) recent and quite sensitive book.Alan F. they also contain instructions on how to perform the ritual that Hai Gaon relates. They felt that the end of time was upon them and therefore it was expected that prophets would again speak. We know that the adept is on earth but that he travels through the heavenly palace – as it turns out. we can now set out to answer another question that has been posed by scholars with regard to the visionary component of this literature. these are RASC techniques and are recognized by the Gaon to be such. contra Scholem). The “palaces” appear to be alternative names for the heavenly spheres (Morray-Jones 2002. in the form of resurrection and translation to the heavenly realm where angelic transformation was effected. This does not happen without some form of RASC. historical prophecy was in the eyes of the central authorities either a phenomenon of the distant past or the eschatological future (see Aune 1983: 81–152). Nothing in Hebrew thought could be exegeted to find such a doctrine. to visit God’s Vice-regent. it was sought with consciously articulated techniques in Jewish mysticism thereafter as late as the Ninth Century. It was a ferocious revelation of vengeance against the enemies of God and eternal happiness for the martyred saints. and. Segal Luckily. But note that even at this late date the language which conveys the RASC is the description of the ascent itself. who partakes of the divine name YHWH in a mystical way. as we have just seen. Himmelfarb. Clearly. Such an important doctrine as life after death for the righteous (and especially the martyrs). on the Merkabah mysticism flatly rejects the excessive reductionism or a literary fiction. The question which most intrigues me is how to judge the issue of consciousness in the ancient texts of the Hellenistic world. was not merely discussed as a philosophical option.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know. In fact. would it perhaps be most accurate to describe the heavenly journey in Jungian terms. meaningful. Had he done so. he could not have allowed the – 229 – . He expresses this importance with Jungian terms. looking and hearing (p.” Second Corinthians therefore suggests – at the very least – that Paul has not entirely adopted the Platonic notion of the immortal soul – psyche. typified most strikingly in Hekhalot Rabbati in the story concerning the recall of R. the apostle Paul gives us sure and certain evidence that First Century Jews were receiving revelation through RASC. we know that someone in the First Century is having this experience. it is evident that the physical states are experienced in terms of tactile and kinesthetic gestures and functions appropriate to the body. (2 Corinthinians 12:1–4) Whether Paul is describing his own or someone else’s experience. Paul here tells us that he knows someone who has had both revelations (apokalypseis) and visions (optasiai): the problem for Paul is not to decide whether this heavenly journey was sane but rather whether it took place inside or outside of the body: I must boast. and salutary to human life in cultures that value them. The vast majority of scholarship thinks that Paul is describing himself.Text Translation/Soul Translation in Freudian language a type of self-hypnosis? Or. whereas others assume an ascent of the soul or mind separated from the body as the result of a paranormal experience such as a trance-induced state. as a descent into and discovery of the archetypal self? From a straightforward reading of the extant sources it would appear that some texts assume a bodily ascent. entering and exiting. 108–109). He will not risk a guess as to whether this ascent was “in the body” or “out of the body. as we shall see below. such as the fiery gyrations of the eyeballs. God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told. ascending and descending. But even in the case of the latter explanation. a translation into the heavenly realm of the whole person with all the sensory faculties intact. but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. and I know that this man was caught up into Paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know. which man may not utter. there is nothing to be gained by it. standing and sitting. I would certainly agree that they are normal occurences and can be significant. singing and uttering hymns. to suggest yet a third alternative. which I would not want to defend for long. Jung suggests that these images are in various ways part of the fundamental psychological processes of human beings and aid in our ability to successfully individuate and mature. God knows. Nehuniah ben Ha-Qanah from his ecstatic trance.17 What is more important is that Paul is flatly stumped by the mechanism. Wolfson must be correct in thinking that the experience has some salutary component for the mystic or it would not have been recounted and retold.

Suffice it to say. Nehuniah ben Hakkanah. miraculous as it appeared to him. Brain Functioning. One can easily see that in other mystical traditions and societies these visions would have been one of the highest goals of consciousness (Austin 1998: 469–80). When they wish to recall him they touch him in a such a way as to give him the slightest bit of cultic impurity. But it is clear from the context that his body is on earth. Because modern commentaries are suffused with the scholar’s own interpretation of the value or possibility of these experiences. there has been a great deal of research of late on the various neurological bases of religious and other anomalous experiences (Persinger 1987. It is reminiscent of taking testimony in a courtroom. it is very difficult to reach some scholarly disinterestedness about what is happening in these heavenly translations. Austin relates various zen states to perfectly normal or trainable aspects of brain activity. he can suggest how his experiences relate to various functions in the brain. is described as sitting on a pure marble slab traveling in heaven explicitly in a RASC while describing the sights to an assembled group of rabbis sitting on earth and listening in ordinary consciousness.19 Implicit within the judgments of the modern scholars are a number of assumptions about what kinds of consciousness are appropriate or sane. and RISCs In his recent book on zen and brain functioning. No doubt this is a fictionalized account but exactly how much of it is augmented by literary imagination cannot be discussed here. So the trance and the trip to heaven are entirely parallel. following most modern anthropologists and social scientists. especially when supplemented by the famous passage in Hekhaloth Rabbati where a rabbinic adept. James H. his visions were denigrated by his Zen Roshi as undesirable snares to his further enlightenment. to his immense disappointment. Normality. it is important to realize that all these terms are being mediated by modern social norms as well as ancient ones.Alan F. Soul flight is the explanation of the aforementioned description of Rabbi Hai Gaon.18 Thus. he narrates a vision which came to him in Zen meditation and which deeply impressed him in clarity and lucidity. Segal possibility that a body could ascend to heaven and he would have had soul flight as a ready-made for the mechanism of the journey. on the other hand. In one interesting place. Cardeña – 230 – . the issue of consciousness and the evaluation of various mental states is an iceberg underlying both the ancient texts and much of the scholarly discussion as well. so the language of ascent is functioning to express the RASC. Nehuniah is recalled for further questioning when he says something puzzling and then is sent back into his trance to finish his journey. Indeed. As a neurologist and experimental physician.

they were real and important and quite normal for those who experienced them. being one with Brahma perceiving the state of no duality. the intellectual scheme used for expressing this state will depend on the cultural assumptions of the subject. displays in convenient form many of the motifs which appear in the heavenly journeys. in her 1984 book Heavenly Journeys. then we have not so much a justification for the afterlife as an explanation for why the afterlife was located at the end of a heavenly journey. It takes translation to produce a translation. experiences eternal bliss. These books demonstrate that perfectly normally functioning brains can spontaneously or by various techniques be stimulated to have anomalous and other religious experiences. liberated from the restrictions of time and space. For instance. and distort time and space making them balloon outward in greatly expanded vistas?” (p.Text Translation/Soul Translation et al. although they are alike in that they all have an etiology in unusual functioning of our brain. Newberg et al. 47 note). The Heavenly Journey Mary Dean-Otting. derangement. who asks: “Which was more likely to happen first: the spontaneously generated idea of an afterlife in which the disembodied soul. These experiences are quite different from the hallucinations that produce permanent mental illness. Obviously. Dean-Otting – 231 – . 2000. and random acts of violence. This center controls our feelings of where we are in space. Depending on the cultural context in which they live. In the 1970s and 1980s Huston Smith discussed the prospect that notions of the afterlife and the soul’s immortality were developed out of these feelings which he experienced experimentally with LSD and psylocybin. being at one with the universe. 2001). others achieve the state in meditation. Translation is the process of finding words for the experience in the brain in the language which the culture provided. Some people seem to be able to do this spontaneously. Exaltation in the mind produces the myth of exaltation. others report the state after disease or trauma or under the effects of various drugs. and when that center is quiet subjects report that they no longer perceive their bodily location. dislocate the center of consciousness. Nevertheless. this can be understood as being a heavenly journey.20 He quotes Mary Bernard. Heavenly journey has a correlative in the functioning of the brain. all the scientists report that religious feelings of leaving the body and being at one with the universe correlate quite fully with quieting the proprioceptive processing areas in the parietal lobes of our brain. The physical experience and the culture cooperate to produce various experiences which we find impossible to verify from the perspective of our cultural norms. or the accidental discovery of hallucinogenic plants that give a sense of euphoria. If we make allowances for the fact that a variety of different stimuli can produce similar effects in ways we are just beginning to understand.

like obtaining ritual purity. Segal shows that the night vision motif is present in 1 Enoch 14. Dreams are very much related to daily experience. dreams are also specially marked as having a divine origin (Miller 1994. and the journey there would likely dream about the same details. pp. Lastly. Dean-Otting herself does not shy from the conclusion that these are characteristics of mystical ascent in Hebrew thought. both in content and emotional tone. in short. One could easily add several other visions to the list. which is specifically mentioned at the beginning of the Poimandres. oral reporting. and drinking a fiery liquid. as the chemicals which the brain uses in the storing of memories are usually noticeably absent at dreamtime. in 4 Ezra there are three famous other techniques – fasting. As a physical stimulus. Furthermore. Furthermore. indeed. that is all that we mean when we say that someone is receiving a dream vision (Proudfoot 1985). We can train ourselves to remember dreams. dreams are a special case in human experience. Anyone who spent his or her time in careful exegesis of the texts which describe the heavens. as a RISC. 1. fasting. in much the same way that people ordinarily re-edit their conversion experiences over time to bring them closer to expected norms within their community (see Segal 1988: App. but without special training we only remember a very few. eating herbs of the field. several times a night. We can stimulate that remembrance either directly by waking up during the dream and reciting or writing it down or by consciously or unconsciously making conditions which disturb sleep indirectly – such as by eating too much or little or by praying or otherwise predisposing the dream to be seen in a particular light. can bring on vivid dreams and – in people with susceptible – 232 – . being a special characteristic of the E source in the Pentateuch. A person who seeks out a dream and treats it as a revelation is relying on an ordinary reflex of human experience but is choosing to treat the experience as a non-normal state of consciousness and a divine message. We all have them. like its opposite over-eating. The notion that God communicates through dreams is part of the epic tradition in Israelite thought. esp. in some sense it doesn’t matter whether the culture chooses to mark the activity as directly related to the vision or merely as one of the preparations. the Testament of Levi. the Book of Daniel is probably the source for the notion that revelation could be sought by incubating dreams. and 4 Ezra. the physiology of dreams suggests that they are not designed to be remembered. as well as direct them. or to subject the dream experience to correction when it goes far from the expected details. the Apocalypse of Abraham. And since we cannot privilege any sort of experience in our modern world. Usually in cultures that posit a non-normal state of consciousness for prophecy.Alan F. of course.21 Fasting is clearly a well-understood technique for achieving RASC. 285–301). the divine throneroom. correction and literary processes are always available after the fact to censor the dream. Now. 3 Baruch. 3–123).

pace Himmelfarb.22 His body is completely incapacitated but he sees the arrival of the angel and then uses the sacrificed – 233 – . it is precisely the kind of formulation one finds in the early parts of 1 Enoch: This is the book of the words or righteousness and the chastisement of the eternal watchers. 10:1). where “a deep sleep” falls upon Abraham. as well as other psychoactive plants and mushrooms. Indeed. Later. And my spirit was amazed. I saw in my sleep what I now speak with my tongue of flesh [italics added] and the breath of the mouth which the Great One has given to man (so that) he (man) may speak with it – and (so that) he may have understanding with his heart as he (the Great One) has created and given it to man. . ma’reh. (Apocalypse of Abraham 10). the apocalypticist has interpreted the Hebrew word tardemah in Genesis 15. Both are technical terms for RASC in prophetic literature. perhaps as in Genesis 28:12. and my soul fled from me. usually translated as deep sleep. The apocalyptic narrator interprets this “deep sleep” as a waking vision: And it came to pass when I heard the voice pronouncing such words to me that I looked this way and that. Genesis 15 provides the structure of the story. grow wild everywhere around the Mediterranean. . since poppies. It may be even more. the description of the special diet may imply a specific agent and is. This compares with the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:1. the first vision is accomplished with a spirit of understanding. . Here. In 3 Enoch. Daniel 7 announces itself as both a dream and a vision. 4:6–7 and the subsequent revelations which are called visions (Hazon 8:1. in accordance with how the Holy and Great One had commanded in this vision. at the very least.” As early as Daniel. for there was no longer strength in me to stand upon the earth.Text Translation/Soul Translation dispositions or training – trance and psychagogic states. the theme of night visions becomes important. and jimson weed. Let us see how the ascent theme works out in Hebrew culture and make some observations about this special kind of “shamanism. In the Testament of Levi. which he writes down. And I became like a stone. I heard the voice speaking . And behold there was no breath of man. and fell face down upon the earth. Also we can note that Daniel receives visions of his head on his bed. In the Apocalypse of Abraham. While we do not know whether the plants eaten had any psychotropic or psychedelic properties. marijuana. and experiences a translation or ascent. This seems like a definite technique of RASC together with the details for recording it. sleep falls upon the seer. And while I was still face down on the ground. the seer begins in a scene of great mourning for the destruction of the temple. a significant part of the fasting regime. (1 Enoch 14:2–3) This passage shows that Enoch too receives his ascent vision in his sleep and then communicates it afterward. as purely a daytime trance.

Himmelfarb accepts the burden of proof for comparison when she compares the visions of the First Century with an important Jewish mystic of the Seventeenth Century. Of course. Weeping and keening and mourning are quite well understood techniques for inducing RISC in Jewish mysticism.Alan F. But the merkabah texts explicitly start the ascent by saying that a certain psalm. not the physical stimulus. and soul flight are used interchangeably here to indicate that the experience was a RASC. after weeping over his personal problems. which was so strongly cited by Himmelfarb as an argument against its presence. the lengthy keening or lamenting which precedes the vision in 4 Ezra may have already become the physical stimulus for inducing RASC. as he might have seen any of a number of other things but. This corresponds to the experience which Hai Gaon narrates in the medieval period. This may be loosely called “shamanism” (Davila 1994. he sees a scene from precisely the – 234 – . which is just what his tradition has taught him to expect and just what the apocalypticists of the First Century expected to see. or given with the direction to be sung in mystical texts. 2001). either described as sung upon ascent. Vital is visited with a prophetic dream late one Sabbath eve. but it may – under the proper circumstances. The lack of a specific description of a preparatory inducement.” He means this flight to signify a RASC. and he further characterizes the physical trauma with a description of a seizure. it is a striking coincidence. although it is not at all clear what this experience has in common with Central Asian shamanism. The implicit theory is not so much “rapture” as explicitly RASC or “ecstasy” in its technical sense (extasia = ek + stasis = “standing outside. the point must be exceedingly clear by now: bidden or unbidden. and context – especially when the state is fervently sought. is neither a fair reading of the evidence nor a bar to the presence of RASC: indeed. Hymn singing should also be mentioned here as a technique for achieving RASC because hymns are frequently inserted into these narratives. spirit possession. in fact. dream vision. or how it could have traveled from its original home. It makes sense to think that terminology of ecstasy. None of these techniques invariably leads to RASC. ecstatic states of this type – RASCs – are common in biblical tradition. Indeed. In the dream. as in the Arda Viraf Nameh. Vital sees the throne of the Ancient of Days. repetitious hymn singing is the most important means of achieving the ascent in the merkabah texts. Hayyim Vital (1542–1620). as the narrator states that his soul “fled. soul flight). Segal birds to ascend. In fact. which is printed in full – is to be recited by the adept 112 times exactly. in this context. the social interpretation of the experience is by far the most important indicator. as it surely is in the later Jewish mysticism.23 Differences between RISC and Exegesis as discoverable in Texts But.” or more colloquially. attitude.

typology. not by exegesis of previous texts alone. and indeed the rise of specific modern concepts of personality intervene as well. figured as a contemporary record of a vision. what sets this vision off as a real experience and shows that the older texts are not is precisely what happens next. According to Himmelfarb. But. which is first described in Daniel 7: – 235 – . just as the angel raises Enoch. Himmelfarb suggests there are no such personal experiences in the apocalypses. What she appears to mean in my estimation is that we have at this moment no way of knowing what kind of personal experience is narrated in them. etc. to say nothing of the specific history and situation of Seventeenth-Century Safed. We may doubt that the narrative is a coterminous transcription of the event but the same is obviously true in the Seventeenth-Century case. They are not exegeses in any of the well-known canons of the first century – midrash. Since Vital’s dream has these “intensely personal aspects. they are vivid. many scholars have independently pointed out a distinctly personal voice in the narration of 4 Ezra which appears to learn developmentally (see for example Stone 1990: 30–33. We simply do not know whether there are any personal elements in 1 Enoch or 4 Ezra because we have no idea who wrote them and only our own deductions as to why they were written.” Himmelfarb assumes that the personal detail serves as an indicator that real experience is present. pesher. 119–125).” an early text. Instead. the passage of time. Of course. allegory. Three short scenes from the famous “Parables of Enoch. Analysis of text seems to demonstrate that certain kinds of narration are produced by RISC. Vital receives reassurance that his personal troubles are over and that he has been elected for divine leadership in place of his rival. He falls on his face until God raises him. they normally produce midrash or commentary. The issue in the ancient world was both personal and social – it was the problem of how God was going to make his justice known when so many evil enemies of God’s people seemed to be in charge. He suffers the conventional emotional responses of fright and trembling. Historical circumstances themselves.Text Translation/Soul Translation throne tradition which we have been studying. What is conventional in the first few centuries seems to me to be something entirely different. we have the description of the divine throneroom. The apocalyptic and pseudepigraphical literature is something entirely different. what she suggests is possible but it is not the only or even the most logical explanation for a difference between two reports in the same tradition separated by 1500 years. just as is the material in Vital’s dream. But even more important is to realize that “solution to personal problems” is a quite modern category that may play no role in the definition of RASC/RISC in the ancient world. Josef Karo. illustrate the point. In 1 Enoch 46. When people deal with texts exegetically in the first few centuries. internalized descriptions of heaven and of God and His court. Comparison is a knife that cuts both ways here.

And the angel Michael. Would it be too much to suggest that the exegete’s own experience in visions or dreams has mediated the previous text and filled in some details? Given the inherent conservatism of exegetical arts. we are not merely given a paraphrase of Daniel but a fairly large expansion including an experience of salvation. But it is important to note that the passage is not just a commentary on it. one of the archangels. And he shall choose the righteous and the holy ones from among (the risen dead).Alan F. can be easily explained as being a product of a prophetic RASC in which the anticipated millennium is experienced as already happening in the vision. It makes no difference whether the intervening experience is a waking vision. and he is destined to be victorious before the Lord of the Spirits in eternal uprightness. The proleptic presence of the eschaton. Now we have hidden storerooms and a “Lord of Spirits. This is the very famous passage in which Enoch ascends to the throne of the Son of Man and is transformed into him: (Thus) it happened after this that my spirit passed out of sight and ascended into the heavens. Enoch uses not only different terms but also new conceptions to describe the scene. experienced proleptically. and with whom righteousness dwells. He also showed me all the secrets of the extreme ends of heaven and all the reservoirs of the stars and the luminaries – 236 – . But. a dream. for the day when they shall be selected and saved has arrived. seizing me by my right hand and lifting me up. shortly after this scene there is a quite interesting expansion on Daniel 12: In those days. I think it is the most obvious explanation. And I saw the sons of the holy angels walking upon the flame of fire. But it is not an exegesis of Daniel 7. And he will open all the hidden storerooms. for the Lord of the Spirits has chosen him.” Since these are all conventional items from other texts. (1 Enoch 46:3) This passage (and the next too) is manifestly a paraphrase of Daniel 7:13. or even a daydream. we have yet a greater change from the passage in Daniel 7. there is no way to tell whether they appear here because they were personally experienced by the adept. Then I fell upon my face before the Lord of the Spirits. What matters is that the imaginative act is interpreted religiously. a psychagogic state. which is also a feature of Christian documents. Also I saw two rivers of fire. In the last example. to whom belongs righteousness. Segal This is the Son of Man. led me out into all the secrets of mercy. (1 Enoch 51:1–3) In this case. Sheol will return all the deposits which she had received and hell will give back all that which it owes. their garments were white – and their overcoats – and the light of their faces was like snow. the light of which fire was shining like hyacinth. It is not the same as saying the text reflects a RASC. and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness.

He narrates the confessional experience of being transformed into an angel. To me. The purpose of the text is theodicy because the expected end will right the wrongs of the present situation. the evidence would be ambiguous as there are no single indicators of RASC. And what he narrates is exceptionally important. 8–11) Here is the same kind of expansion of Daniel which we have just noticed in the earlier passages in the Parables. Instead they appear to be issues of the nature of the saved group and their hopes for the redress over the seeming lack of justice in the world. He narrates the scene and discusses his personal feelings in ways which are totally new and foreign to the original Daniel passage. it is presented as a RASC. A whole new character is introduced. I fell on my face. The one universal – 237 – . as they dominate all religious writing. they are phrased as the personal problems of the narrator. and most obviously for the adept experiencing RASC. was built in the heaven of heavens . Raphael. And I saw countless angels – a hundred thousand times a hundred thousand. With them is the Antecedent of Time: His head is white and pure like wool and his garment is indescribable. And. which Himmelfarb said was absent in this literature. and numerous (other) holy angels that are in heaven above. I see no reason to disbelieve that RASC is part of the religious tradition. But it is at least a personal. He carried off my spirit.Text Translation/Soul Translation – from where they came out (to shine) before the faces of the holy ones. there is no question but that the text is reproducing the experience of someone who is hiding behind the conceit of Enoch. we have a clear example of a future prophecy experienced confessionally as a RASC with the many novelties in the translation. first-person narration. rather it is the result of a new prophetic insight about the events of the eschaton. Thus. And it is impossible to derive without adding a new character into the scene. We have seen that this is the very prophecy predicted by Daniel 12. ten million times ten million – encircling that house. and numerous (other) holy angels that are countless. of course. Raphael. No place in scripture is this made clear. he is the same Enoch who is mentioned in Genesis 5. Phanuel. showing us that personal experience is present. But there is an even more interesting part of the expansion. Of course. Phanuel. who is serving as the mouthpiece for the innovation. not of any historical character. This does not prove that the expansion was taken during RASC. and I Enoch. albeit an antideluvian hero. my whole body mollified and my spirit transformed. He now goes to the heavenly throneroom which is described in Daniel 7:13 and testifies that the prophecy of Daniel 12 is starting to happen. . . Gabriel. Michael. (1 Enoch 71:1– 5. so he is yet another pseudonymous character. Gabriel. But what could prove it? Even if we had the adept here for an EEG.24 The conventions of the First Century are very different from those of the Seventeenth. especially the personage of Enoch. the supposed author. go in and out of that house – Michael. Although issues of authority dominate earlier texts as well. Enoch.

the rules for changing it are not exegetical rules. Often Paul talks about transforming the believers into the image of God’s son in various ways (Romans 8:29. This is probably the confessional experience of becoming a star. is not easily explainable by exegesis alone. Another imagination is filtering it and changing it in significant ways. 1 Corinthians 15:49. Christos. 2 Corinthians 3:18–4:6. beholding the glory of the Lord. just as in Jewish mysticism. People try to demonstrate that they are not innovating. a major theme is the ascent of the adept where he is transformed into the gigantic angelic figure who embodies the name of God. but they never seem to neglect this issue. but on a great many theophany texts as well. As Himmelfarb has helped illustrate for us. is precisely that it does invoke other. more charismatic sources of religious authority than the literary and exegetical skills which trained religious exegetes claim (Lewis 1971). except in scriptural religious terms the anxiety seems to be mostly on the other side – not anxiety in admitting influence but anxiety in admitting novelty. and that development. with the righteousness of the martyrs rewarded and the sinfulness of the persecutors punished. They present a further development of the tradition. whether it be Josef Karo or the Second Temple administration or stimulated by the shock of the Roman victory over the Jews and their destruction of the Herodian Temple. In those documents. which makes it subversive to received authority. for the expansions go wildly beyond exegesis. whether ecstatic or not.25 Paul reveals much about personal mystical experiences in the First Century in his own confessional accounts. It probably also explains Paul’s use of the language. in turn. even when they manifestly are. cristo~). Segal in all these texts seems to me to be that every one eventually addresses the issues of theodicy by turning his or her attention to the eschaton or “millennium. This is the religious concomitant to Harold Bloom’s notion of the anxiety of influence. All the texts function in other ways too. Obviously. historical circumstances and individual consciousness. are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another. as narrated in Daniel 12:2. The large difference between Paul and the Merkabah mystics is that Paul uniquely identifies the angelic figure with the messiah (Christ. one characteristic of claiming a special revelation.” Revealing the contents of heaven.Alan F. may conflict in any religious text. “in Christ” as Christ functions as the human representative of God. The experiences of Enoch in 1 Enoch and the mystical ascenders in the merkabah documents are based on the writings of Daniel and Ezekiel especially. with unveiled face. Instead they claim that God has delivered a new insight about His approaching plan of vengeance for the wicked. is an answer to the question of why the righteous cult members are persecuted. for this comes from the Lord who is – 238 – . which we saw earlier. also see Colossians 3:9): And we all. often by adopting the persona of ancient heroes.

that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. principally symmmorphosis.Text Translation/Soul Translation the Spirit . whether known to us or not. acts as a prophet consoling the embittered and small minority.” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. . it is a very potent religious and mystical testimony. (Philippians 3: 10-11) But our commonwealth is in heaven. to conform or fit in. He sees the process as having begun with the resurrection of Christ and as ending with the eschaton. that you may prove what is the will of God. who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body. . they will all be transformed into angels as they are translated to a better existence. He foretells that the – 239 – . by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. Conclusion This is not a mere novelistic consolation. becoming like him in his death. This is to be contrasted in Romans 12:2 with syschematize. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers. like the other mystics. soon to arrive. knows that God will continue to justify the righteous because he has already personally felt the beginning of the longprophesied transformation of the righteous leaders (hamaskilim of Daniel 12. with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you! (Galatians 4: 19) Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. who is the likeness of God . to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Paul. which can console but can also propel cult members to action. what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Philippians 3:20–21) My little children. through His sufferings and death. and from it we await a Savior. . But. Baptism and enduring sufferings are what bond the believer to Christ. the Lord Jesus Christ. “Let light shine out of darkness. (Romans 12:2) Paul says that all believers are being changed into the likeness of the Glory of the Lord. though he also uses metamorphosize and metaschematize to describe the event. a word which connotes a metamorphosis into the same person. at the eschaton. those who are wise) to angelic substance. trying to show them why they must hold to their faith in spite of disconfirmation. and may share his sufferings. . The seer. (2 Corinthians 3: 18–4:6) that I may know him and the power of his resurrection. This confessional experience is a kind of breakthrough of the end-time experience into ordinary life. He uses the Greek words for transformation. For it is the God who said.

It also illustrates the way in which textual study is translated into confessional mystical experience in a Scriptural community. there are even many apocalypses in the later mystical literature. not evident structure of the cosmos. But calling attention to the relationship between the scholarly interpretive act and the simpler act of finding a good equivalent word in another language does underline that we need to be responsible for understanding the nature of the ancients’ experience. They offer religious consolation for a world in which the righteous do not seem to win and they promise far more than the thrill of ascent. especially one which feels itself poised before the eschaton. The first stage is represented by key prophetic texts like Daniel and Ezekiel. even if we believe what they tell us is literally impossible. secrets which include the proleptic transformation of believers into the divine or angelic body sitting on the throne. Some of the texts imply that they are imparting great secrets. the apocalyptic texts. But it is clear that this history gives us a translation process in two respects. but to the language of the neurological basis of our experiences and a historically developing set of cultural explanations about what these refractory experiences mean. Segal righteous were supposed eschatologically to be promised unification and transformation into immortal creatures. The ascents all say that they reveal the secret. not to the language of fiction and hallucination. First it records the heavenly translation of the saints to receive their transformative reward in heaven. famous heroes from the biblical past are pictured as uncovering in revelation (apocalypsis) more secrets about these prophetic writings. I am only saying that they may have been mistaken in their physics from our point – 240 – . In the second stage. he is the only named Jewish mystic to give us his confessional and personal experience in about 1500 years. These texts are surely more than imaginative renderings to remedy unsatisfactory daily life. The stages are not strictly chronological and they overlap a great deal. Translation from one conceptual universe to another is a much more metaphoric use of the term than the simple act of translating the word young woman in Hebrew to virgin in Greek and is even more fraught with misprisions. They are not merely literary appraisals but were meant to be appropriated on a religious level.Alan F. I have taken up an inordinate amount of time describing mystical translation. I am suggesting that there are many ways of translating. after outlining some methodological issues in word translation. In the later texts we get the confessional experience of the adepts as they develop specific ways to provoke and stimulate these experiences. in which God appears in a human form. Now obviously this was intended to be a discussion on translation. There are three stages in this little history of RASC in apocalypticism. one important way being by confessionally reexperiencing the previous prophetic texts. For us to understand these seemingly impossible experiences we need to translate them from their language of vision. Paul shows us that apocalypse and mysticism go hand in hand.

In a Scriptural tradition like the Bible. that is just how they experienced their RISCs. psychic astronauts. All the modern scholars would translate dream and vision by their proper names. This is a much more complicated case than the Virgin Birth but it is similar methodologically in that relatively innocuous changes in wording – like the difference between vision and hallucination – signal enormous changes in our understanding of the nature of consciousness. they would have placed their reductionistic interpretations right into the translation itself. as the two phenomena are highly correlated and the mystics begin to agree on the vehicle of the travel. we ought – 241 – . Some were mystical voyagers. not translation per se seems to me to be faulty. those people who formulated these texts. the reconceptualizing of prior ideas to renew them for new times.Text Translation/Soul Translation of view. It is not that these religious texts are actually novels. the soul itself. tropes of a literary genre. the Bible is not self-evidently speaking to us. They did it by reexperiencing the prophecies in a RASC. The past is a foreign land and. So Paul and the prophets become theologians and social reformers to fit our world. all translation is a kind of hermeneutics. Not only does translation to heaven serve as a metaphor for ecstasy. And if they were still following the conventions of the translation in the LXX or the Targums. heavenly translators who expected to be translated and transformed into angelic creatures in order better to do God’s work in the coming apocalypse. In some sense. Having those expectations. I have also spent some time castigating scholars whose interpretation. Himmelfarb has gotten the problem exactly wrong. But in observation of the centuries after Paul it becomes clear that translation to heaven itself serves as the basic language to describe and indicator of the RASC. or even symptoms of insanity. even when they believe them to be feigning or fictionalizing these experiences. it also illustrates what lies behind the process of biblical language translation. are not like us. our biblical demogogues aside. it is rather that we turn them from religious texts to novels to fit our world. they freely reinterpret the terms as signifying novelistic license. It is proper to admit that the adepts of the apocalyptic and mystical literature. The process of translation from language to language actually turns out to be a less intense way of doing what the mystics were doing – moving the meaning of texts from one cultural context to another. it is easy to miss the real experience of religiously altered states of consciousness in the texts or to denigrate them because we cannot duplicate the experience. In this case. Yet. in their commentaries. We do it by reading them and commenting on them – different hermeneutics for different people and different times. in the nature of the experience being described in the words from a previous time. Aware of these massive differences between us and them. but it seems clear that they were not lying about the nature of their experiences. The Bible does not have to be talking about us and our lives.

All translations of the Qur’an are called merely commentaries. but while they were preparing it. even if we cannot have their experiences and do not wish to emulate them. I would be hard-pressed to discover any disinterested notions of truth and falsity in a tradition exegesis. I can understand that scholars of religion once thought that some exegeses were “true” and others “false” in that they conformed to the simplest meanings of the text. A proof-text is a Bible citation used to demonstrate the truth of a doctrine and is used especially when scholars want to point out that some new doctrine is opportunistically justified by rereading or reinterpreting a biblical text which originally had nothing to do with it. the first chapter deals with the phenomenon of mysticism in Judaism but it does not address the issues that are central to this discussion. Notice that Peter falls into a trance in Acts 10:10. Instead it outlines a theory of Jewish mysticism which does not include and in fact is hostile to unio mystica. There may not be any difference between the two phenomena. Of course. Translation is inherently a dangerous process and official Islam avoids the question by eschewing translation entirely. See Kamesar (1990). 8. thesis. 2. indeed. we should probably suspect a great deal of the Bible. Segal to be able to do our relatively modest jobs of translating and commenting on their work with a bit more respect for the high purpose that they set for themselves. all RASC is in a sense RISC because all states of consciousness are coded and interpreted by the culture. which subsequently was published as well. 4. The material is from his Oxford D.Alan F. Notes 1. 3. 7. In Scholem 1956. however. Indeed. this distinction is somewhat arbitrary because RASC trances and altered states are complex and socially determined states. It is. 6. Phil. From the point of view of brain functioning they may all be simply religiously interpreted states of consciousness. I would prefer – 242 – . And he became hungry and desired something to eat. he fell into a trance (ektasis). since most of the canon is pseudonymous as well. But in a post-modern world. 5. This now appears to be an overstated conclusion. helpful to distinguish between the two in the case in the period we are discussing because we feel that dreams are ordinary experience but can be interpreted as religious (therefore RISC) while we normally feel that visions are altered states of consciousness and therefore RASC.

as I will show. ‘By what means?’ And he said. it is important to note that Castaneda steadfastly maintained that it was all true. of course. see Segal 1987. See Kilborne. and you shall succeed. And. Culianu 1983. . Himmelfarb is also making an interesting and justifiable claim against other scholars who claim that merely reading the texts was a ritual event in that the texts were performative utterances which brought about ascent in the mind. for dreams. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD. especially 16:6–12. see Kilborne and esp. it is clear that it could not be used to represent the experiences with a typical Yacqui. saying. For a discussion of the shamanic techniques in healing. 16. “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne. that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing.’ Now therefore behold. To be conservative. ‘I will entice him. Himmelfarb’s good point. and the LORD said. and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left. Miller 1994. 17. See for example. Instead he tries to develop criteria showing where the evidence may be selectively and carefully appropriated to Israelite cases. The term often used to describe merkabah mystics. 15. 10. is taken to absurd lengths. we cannot actually tell whether Paul is suggesting that the actual adept cannot tell about the mechanism or whether he is just unsure of – 243 – 9. the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets. Robert Wilson (1980) brings up the comparative material but is skeptical of its direct application to Israelite prophecy. seems to me best understood as referring to this position. the LORD has spoken evil concerning you” (1 Kings 22:19–23). go forth and do so. 14. Though everyone thinks that much of it was fictionalized.’ And the LORD said to him. 11. ‘You are to entice him.’ And he said. ‘Who will entice Ahab. the summary discussion in Collins 1977. 12. “the descenders into the chariot” (yordei merkabah ywrdy mrkbh).Text Translation/Soul Translation to merely to point out which exegeses had societal approval and which lacked it. see esp. And Micaiah said. (Pace Grünwald). I am not saying that Castaneda’s work is totally worthless. 13. ‘I will go forth. it certainly remains useful to describe the counter-cultural religiosity of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Even assuming that someone called Don Juan actually existed. and another said another. and also Hanson where he shows that such Hellenistic conventions surely influenced Luke’s descriptions in Acts. see also Lewis 1986. and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. For a demonstration of these issues with regard to magic. On the other hand. Of course they were but they may not have been ritual events.

the Arda Viraf Nameh where the hero takes a potion such as Haoma which results in a long seizure. young manifestation in the vision and is hence now part of God. 19. In some real sense we can say that the New Testament was written to prove that the man Jesus has been translated to heaven to become the second. It would be interesting speculate about any relationship between this report and Zoroastrian Haoma rituals. Michael Ripinsky-Naxon (1993) adopts a very broad phenomenology as a strategy to define Shamanism.Alan F. 20. 1998. This certainly fits the apocalyptic and mystical evidence in early Christianity and Judaism where some ascents seem to be soul flights whereas others seem to be bodily journeys. Noerretranders. If I had to wager. 25. Suffice it to say that these seemingly parenthetical remarks are quite an impressive and unusual pieces of evidence for a particular theoretical moment in Late Antiquity ascent texts. – 244 – . With more time. 21. it occurs within the vision as a magic potion for the purposes of remembering scripture. 18.” the angel who visits the mystic and teaches him magically to remember vast amounts of Talmud. 1996. 1998 [1991]. It is also reminiscent of the famous Zoroastrian ascension text. See the reprints of these articles in Smith 2001. so it should probably be seen as a specific characteristic of that particular vision. then the hekhalot material is clearly shamanism too. If so. I cite the “cult” classic: Julian Jaynes (1977) not to agree with his major points but only to suggest various possibilities in the development of consciousness and especially in the imposition of RASC within it. It is from the same root as that of the word used for trance is Daniel 10. because it is not suggested as a waking technique for achieving RASC. should probably be excluded as an actual technique. The last report. 1997. Dennett. See more recent studies of consciousness for more plausible explanations: Chalmers. Searle et al. None of the seers themselves are directed to do this before the vision starts. modern Hebrew uses the word to express a drug “high. but that is a story for another day. 24. 22. 1991. he relates a heavenly journey. and anesthesia. But it is still important to note that the issue of healing is almost entirely missing in the Jewish material. In its place is the virtually unique benefit of the “Sar Torah. When he recovers. Tart. Rather. I would suggest that Paul is saying that he has experienced the ascent and he does not know whether he journeyed in the body or not. Segal the report he is narrating. Indeed. 1969.” stupor. which Paul describes in some detail. Dowling. 23. however. 1996. I could show that this is exactly the experience behind the early Christian Church’s experience of being in Christ.

1980. Standley. Halperin. 1395–1427. Dennett. New Haven:Yale University Press. 1998. Gallup. New York: McGraw-Hill. Dean-Otting. The Apocalyptic Vision of the Book of Daniel. Apocalyptic and Merkabah Mysticism. L. “Dreams and Visions in the Graeco-Roman World and Early Christianity. pp. 1966. Ernst. Jim. 1984. pp. 2001. Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses. Leiden: Brill. Culianu. James H. 1988. Missoula. New Haven: American Oriental Society.: American Psychological Association. Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness. David J. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Leiden: Brill. 1993. Himmelfarb.” Society of Biblical Literature 1994 Seminar Papers. Mary. George Jr. Dowling. —— Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness. Austin. The People’s Religion: American Faith in the 90s. Hanson. and Castelli. 1952. Harvard Semitic Monographs 16. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. John J. Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. —— Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature. Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence. New York: Oxford University Press. Consciousness Explained. Etzel. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Psychanodia I. Gallup. Iaon P. 2000. Wiesbaden: Steiner.” ANRW II 23:2. Chalmers. George Jr. 1996. John E. AGAJV. Lynn. Boston: Little Brown. Collins. David. 1977. New York: Norton. Paulus als Visionär.C. “The Hekhalot Literature and Shamanism. Washington. Idel. Davila. 1994. James R. William. 1983. —— The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel’s Vision. New York: Macmillan. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. D. The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature. 1989. New York: Verlag Peter Lang. New York: Basic. David J. Steven Jay and Krippner. 1991. 1989. Leiden: Brill.Text Translation/Soul Translation References Aune. Cardeña. 767– 789. with Proctor. Grünwald. Benz. 1998. – 245 – . Martha. Daniel C. John S. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. AOS 62. 1980. MT: Scholars Press. Atlantic GA: Scholars Press. Moshe. Creating Mind. Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Leteratur. 1983. Kabbalah: New Perspectives. Adventures in Immortality. 1982. Heavenly Journeys: A Study of the Motif in Hellenistic Jewish Literature.

1984. Ripinsky-Naxon. Religious Experience. In Hekhalot Mysticism: a Source-Critical and Tradition-Historical Inquiry. Peter. 1998 (orig. Julian. The Nature of Shamanism: Substance and Function of a Religious Metaphor. Otsar Ha-Geonim ed. Leiden: Brill. 51–75. Michael A. trans. Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. Lewin Hagigah. 1991. pub. 1977. 1981. 1993. “Paulus als Ekstatiker: pneumatologische Beobachtung zu 2 Cor. 1973. Jerusalem. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Kilborne. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. New York: Ballantine. “The Sorcerer and His Magic. 1987. 153–160. Christopher. Albany: SUNY Press. Ioan M. J. Benjamin. “A Transparent Illusion: The Dangerous Vision of Water”. Saake.” Encyclopedia of Religion. xii 1–10. 1932. Noerretranders. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2002. Trans. Lévi Strauss.” Structural Anthropology. 1985. Helmut. Vince. pp. New York: Viking. Sydenham. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. Lewis. New York: Crossroads. Eugene and Rause. 1984. Wayne.” In The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Early Judaism and Christianity. 1991). —— Der verborgene und offenbare Gott: Hauptthemen der frühen jüdischen Mystik. “The Virgin of Isaiah 7:14: The Philological Argument from the Second to the Fifth Century. Segal Jaynes. —— Religion in Context: Cults and Charisma. 1971. Rowland. Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs. Kim. Patricia Cox. 2001. Rowland. Baltimore: Penguin. Adam. Andrew. Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. Morray-Jones. – 246 – . Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Tor. Newberg. 1984. as Maerk verden. 1982. “Dreams. Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Synopse Zur Hekhalot-Literatur. 1983. 14–15. Monique Layton.” Journal of Theological Studies ns 41. Westport CN: Praeger. Proudfoot.Alan F. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Princeton: Princeton University Press. D’Aquili. Gyldendalske Bokhandel. 1990. Kamesar. Christopher. The Origin of Paul’s Gospel. pp. Schäfer. Michael. —— Geniza-Fragmente Zur Hekhalot-Literatur. Claude. Persinger. Teshuroth. NovT 15:2. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). 1986. “Towards an Understanding of the Origins of Apocalyptic. Miller.

Segal. Philadelphia: Fortress. and Talmudic Tradition. Ephraim E. 1956.). “Hellenistic Magic: Some Questions of Definition. Scholem. (ed. Stone. 1967. Alan F. Fourth Ezra. New Haven: Yale University Press. Tart. Exchanges with David Chalmers and Daniel C. Huston. New York: New York Review Press. 1980. Through a Speculum that Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism. Elliot R. Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals.Text Translation/Soul Translation Scholem. Merkabah Mysticism.” In Paul the Convert. Gershom Gerhard. —— “Paul’s Conversion. Robert. Brown Judaic Series 127. Wilson. 1960. New York: Penguin Putnam. Michael Edward. Smith. 1969. Psychological Studys. In Hebrew in the Hebrew section of Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to Gershom G. The Mystery of Consciousness. Altered States of Consciousness: A Book of Readings. New York: Schocken. Dennett. Jerusalem: Magnes. 1988. Wolfsen. 1987. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. “The Traditions about Merkabah Mysticism in the Tannaitic Period”. 1990. Princeton: Princeton University Press. John R.” In Other Judaisms of Late Antiquity. Searle. 1997. – 247 – . —— Jewish Gnosticism. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America. New York: Wiley. Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. 1994. Atlanta GA: Scholars Press. Charles T. Urbach. Minneapolis: Fortress. 2001.


was developed during the eighteenth century by such figures as Vico. the categories in which these objects were framed. In parallel with this evolution. the classical ideal. beginning in the mid-seventeenth century with the founding of the Royal Academy in Paris in 1648 and the professionalization of fine art (as opposed to the work of artisans) under the control of the state. Art was expected to uphold public morality by depicting edifying moments from history and mythology. and how they should be classified and viewed. the idea of art acquired its modern sense. Lessing and Kant. was being provided mainly by the new discipline of anthropology. over the same period. By the mid-nineteenth century.2 Three centuries later. and the commentaries that elaborated the frames. Civilization and the Idea of Art Much of the talk about what art is and what it means uses the idea of art to campaign for particular definitions of what it is to be civilized. social sciences developed from their original roots in theology and philosophy. The first visually pleasing or intriguing objects brought back from Africa. and closely related to it. mark the beginnings of anthropology. housed in the new ethnographic museums. changed to match changes in international relations. morality and right thinking. The travelers’ reports that accompanied them. the reflexive turn in anthropology has led to controversial and still unsettled new perspectives on the means by which objects exhibited in the West were collected.” From the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. and commentaries from Montaigne’s essay On Cannibals to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. all of whom were preoccupied with the relations among art. like that – 249 – . In Europe. it recorded its relations with exotic regions in the form of collections of “curiosities. commentary on exotic objects. The “theory” of this art. Their discussions were prompted in part by increasing popular interest in reports from faraway places. The idea of art.–10 – Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Wyatt MacGaffey As Europe extended its reach around the world from the fifteenth century onward.1 the Americas and the Pacific in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were not yet “art” but curios without ascertainable meaning. Burke.

by whatever lack in other people explains the assumed absence of civilization among them.” especially as it was reported from Africa and Oceania. “fetishism” was the antithesis of civilization. folk art. A notorious example was provided until recently by the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington. motivated solely by impulse and emotion. for example.C. There was nothing there to translate. or invented. if by translation we mean to express in our own terms the significance of the objects to those who produced and used them. Instead of art. “cast the primitive as the dark image of itself” (Connelly 1995: 9). were supposed incapable of abstraction and lacked any sense of history. to which most of the same ambiguities attach as to primitive art. it – 250 – . in practice. acquired plausibility.4 Objects from Africa and Oceania still fell into the category of the grotesque.5 Objects brought back from colonial empires were housed in the new ethnographic museums. The type of the grotesque was the “fetish. for Enlightenment thinkers from De Brosses to Hegel. has always been most clearly defined by what it is not or. The last quarter of the nineteenth century also discovered. D.Wyatt MacGaffey of the rational.” and Picasso famously expressed his lack of interest in the meaning to Africans of their art by saying that the objects themselves told him all he needed to know. not as art (not even primitive art) but as demonstrations of the absence of civilization among those who produced them. as Frances Connelly has shown. but it was the form rather than the “meaning” of the objects that intrigued them. the possibility that primitive arts were really art.6 Meaning was assigned to African and Oceanian works lodged in ethnographic collections in terms of the evolutionary assumptions they were called upon to illustrate. even Gauguin’s “Tahitian” paintings were often based on Egyptian. makes use of African masks as “grotesques. they produced forms that were either grotesque (lacking discipline) or at best ornamental (lacking narrative). or art of a sort. Ornament became more respectable.3 The court arts of the Near and Far East and Peru that attracted attention by their aesthetic qualities were regarded as ornament rather than art because although their makers were credited with imagination they were assumed to be incapable of the kind of transcendent ideas that informed real art and endowed it with meaning. The nineteenth-century romantic reaction against the academy and the classical ideal brought about a reevaluation of emotion as against reason.. and therefore of the primitive. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Much has been made of the interest shown in African objects by Picasso. it was the product of merely random impulses and violated the elementary Cartesian distinction between animate and inanimate beings (Pietz 1985). illustrations for an evolutionary narrative. The classical norm in art. Modigliani and other artists in Paris a century ago. more accurately. not on Polynesian art. Primitives. where the African collection appeared in pseudochronological order after the neolithic exhibit. Japanese or Javanese compositions.

When acrylic paintings by Australian Aborigines appeared on the New York art market in 1989. and where. in the twentieth century. identified three critical positions: the romantic. Our folk. and energized by the desire to control (commercial) value. Art. to Oriental Art. now renamed “Asian. As Fred Myers observes. dealers and their allies the critics debated the status to be accorded to them. that prevailed until recently and have yet to succumb entirely to scholarly challenges. Primitive Art (sometimes now called “tribal” or “ethnic”) is the Folk Art of Others who lack Fine Art. before the invasion of corrupting foreign or modern influences.” They were produced. much of it not even American in inspiration (Janzen and Janzen 1991). “the point of the struggle is almost entirely a question of how to represent others” (Myers 1995: 57). it is the privilege of the collector to discover it (Steiner 1994: 9. finding himself unexpectedly in an ethnographic role. The history of these evaluations remains fossilized in the categories we find in dealers’ catalogs and the art departments of museums. in response to collective tradition rather than individual genius. lies in the way it is contrasted with the others. so far. Myers. The date of the work does not matter. Folk art and primitive art have in common that they are supposed to be produced by ordinary persons whose names are not simply unknown but irrelevant. Modern studies have shown the error of these assumptions. rather than in the list of objects that may or may not be included. lower”. in both instances.” in recognition of the derogatory tenor of the original term. supposedly. to “academic art. except that it should be as old as possible. they were the last areas to be admitted as potential producers of art.” but the idea of them remained negative.7 Folk and primitive objects could suddenly be art. often attended by the acrimony appropriate to these and other essentially political matters. the maker is unaware that his product is art. as at the Art Institute of Chicago. are matters of ongoing debate. The Fine Art of Others is limited. Africa and Oceania are lumped together only because. The constitutive variables of the set are “ours vs. 44). in which the paintings. often considered morally preferable. the significance of each category. American folk art was often a popular hand-me-down from academic art. and they did not incorporate narratives of historical and moral importance. they consider objects made by known and still living individual makers to be inauthentic (Steiner 1994). Whether these contrasts should be drawn. theirs” and “higher vs. however. These turns of thought and practice have generated the subdivisions of the general category. and of “Art” as a whole. a “dark image. created in industrial media rather than with – 251 – . where.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art consisted of objects identified as art by members of the upper class. are superior to their folk in that their creativity represents the cultural heritage of a nation rather than the unthinking representational habits of the tribe (Ames 1977). The collectors and connoisseurs who constitute the primitive-art market codify tribal styles in order to control “authenticity” and therefore market value. somehow.

and the self-described “postmodernist” perspective (incorporating some oldfashioned Marxist rhetoric). Degas. quilts. B. Shelburne. constantly impede the task of translation. the modernist. the great age of imperial looting. knows what to expect in collections bearing these labels. students of Native America were much more sympathetic to indigenous thought. announces the patronage that defines it. To convey “their” meanings. “Such criticisms. On a hill dominating the scene is a Greek Revival mansion specially constructed to house the New York City apartment of the wealthy collector and her husband. Objects of each kind are normally housed in museums specializing in them and supported by the corresponding specialized journals and professional associations.” Myers notes. and Monet. for all his insistence on recording “the native’s point of view.” denied that native society could have its intelligent members from whom indigenous theories could be elicited. anthropology still assumed that primitive cultures generated no ideas worth translating (Evans-Pritchard 1965: 105–108). Vermont. in which they also failed as modern art. housed in a collection of log cabins. failed as primitive art because they had been contaminated by Western influence. because by its standards they were no more than second-rate neo-Expressionism. The living quarters are furnished with European paneling and paintings by Rembrandt. which are ethnographically interesting in their own right (Blier. our best guide to primitive thinking was the memory of our own childish days. as Suzanne Blier calls them. even though unable to define art. The idea of art is still critically bound up with the idea we form of civilization. hand-pumped fire-engines and craftsman’s tools. in E.Wyatt MacGaffey vegetable dyes on bark. Tylor’s more charitable view. trade signs. Lewis Henry Morgan’s opinion in 1877 is representative: “All primitive religions are grotesque and to some extent unintelligible”. folk art or primitive art. The constituent categories of the idea of art are found in our discursive categories but are also concretely institutionalized. country stores and other antique buildings. In the nineteenth century. cigar-store Indians. 1996). “are part of the discursive practices that define ‘high art’”. they are also about how we see “ourselves” in relation to “them” (Myers 1995: 81). though Franz – 252 – . In the Shelburne Museum. we must first become aware of our own. seashell sculptures. barns. The public. enduring myths. anthropology came late to the field. including art. and has been instructed at some level in the nature of the experience they should have when visiting one. minus original utilities such as the bathroom. an enormous and magnificent collection of weathervanes. Even Malinowski. In the United States. and has until recently restricted itself to primitive art. From Artifacts to Art Among the commentaries on museum collections. which denied that the works should be called art at all.

On the other hand. and that the works themselves embodied moral and historical themes. became a growth industry.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Boas’ pioneering Primitive Art (1927) was virtually restricted to formal analysis. Primitive art. as political developments in African colonies tended toward independence. or the exhibition of the works in bland and pillared spaces to be contemplated in the quasi-religious silence of “exalted looking” (MacGaffey 1998: 225–7). Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937). They insisted that the makers of primitive art were admired locally for their individual talent. it was not until the 1960s that the work of Victor Turner. much of it by anthropologists.8 In African studies the first attempt to take seriously an indigenous system was Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft. which challenged those same requirements from within and denied that art should be defined by the “hand” of the artist. the use of noble materials. that their ateliers produced works commercially for distant markets. pioneers such as William Fagg began the critical documentation of African art. artists tend to be full time specialists. anthropologists themselves still tend to reinforce the distorting effects of Western cosmographic assumptions. anthropologists engaged in a prolonged and only partly successful struggle against the invidious distinctions built into the idea of art. In short. there is great diversity of art styles. that they were consciously creative and attentive to explicit aesthetic criteria.”9 Besides reporting ethnographically on the arts of others and the contexts of their production. Luc de Heusch and Mary Douglas made the study of other people’s “meanings” generally acceptable. In 1954. endlessly – 253 – . A dramatic increase in prices encouraged the relabeling of more and more types of objects as “art. Daryll Forde’s symposium on African cosmologies was still greeted with skepticism by British anthropologists. whose training is haphazard and who work part-time. During the 1960s. art styles change rapidly over time” (Anderson 1979: 6). linked to rising interest in African objects on the part of art collectors. is essentially different from fine art because it is produced by people with simple technology. they were aided by the twentieth-century movements known as anti-art. but it was generally assumed that they represented a Mediterranean intrusion into coastal West Africa. Anderson’s characterization is explicitly residual: “We need the term ‘primitive art’ because nonprimitive societies typically have art based on complex technology. In the 1950s. In the course of the struggle. the study of art in Africa. we are to believe. but attention focused primarily on sculptural forms that corresponded well to the classical notion of representational art. The founding of the journal African Arts in 1967 and the publication of the symposium Tradition and Creativity in Tribal Art (Biebuyck 1969) marked this new phase. anthropologists sought admission for primitive art into the exclusive precincts of fine art by arguing that it met the traditional requirements for European art. Bronzes looted from the Benin kingdom by the British in 1898 were the first African objects to be accorded the status of art. art training is institutionalized in schools.

by drawing their attention to extrinsic or anecdotal matters. is to be unaware that the ideal of – 254 – . in the second edition of his textbook. expressing the eternal but inarticulate ethos of a particular tribe. Opposition continues between the curatorial approach. Schjeldahl hopes that museum-goers will read what he writes. Presumably. and the ethnographic approach. turning art shows into walkin brochures.” but also declared that ethnographic information was irrelevant to the discovery of formal similarities between Western and other artworks (Rubin 1984). In practice. and the knowledge of how to use them. In every exhibition difficult decisions have to be made about the amount of ethnographic information to include. Traditional views are changing. such as linguistics. even though they do not carry his graffiti about with them. insisting that they should only gather facts.Wyatt MacGaffey reproducing the same things. emphasizing an entirely visual experience of art. however. In the anthropology of art. 9). The debate about how much translation should be added to exhibited artworks is intimately related to class. “To fear that written or spoken information about the works on display diverts visitors from the works themselves. and as the rapidly growing field of museum studies reveals the tacit assumptions underlying choices about what to exhibit and how. semiotics and philosophy (McNaughton 1993). individual masters. rigorous theory should enable the anthropology of art to transcend its cultural commitments. The result was denounced by critics as an imperialistic expropriation and an attempt to demonstrate the universal inevitability of the modern (Clifford 1988: ch. the only theoretical approach worthy of the name is the late Alfred Gell’s Art and Agency (Gell 1998). without explaining why (Layton 1991). William Rubin set aside any evolutionary connotation of the word “primitive. and training programs in the space once occupied by the blandly fallacious construction of the primitive. are most likely to reject the services of professional guides and recorded commentaries (Bourdieu and Darbel 1990: 69). Peter Schjeldahl recently reiterated the traditional curatorial view of the war between words and images: “Wall texts are a bane of late twentieth-century museology. Layton restricts the anthropology of art to the products of small-scale societies. Knowledge and taste arrange themselves in constellations linked to level of education. as Bourdieu reported after an intensive investigation into the experiences of European museum-goers. including anthropologists. We can’t help but read them – I defy anyone to ignore writing on walls – and thus are jerked from silent reverie into nattering pedagogy. are resistant to theory. the classes best equipped with such aids as guidebooks and catalogs. Art and education are terrible bedfellows” (Schjeldahl 1999: 83). those that do venture into theory mostly borrow from other disciplines. art historians. In principle. as recent studies reveal the presence of art schools. which seeks to translate the meaning of the objects by means of placards and increasingly weighty companion volumes. In his enormous “Primitivism” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1984. More recently.

They reappropriated art by making it. in the proper context – that is. answers to the question “What does it mean?”). As Malevich put it in his “Suprematist” manifesto of 1913. if I may use “translation” broadly to include information concerning the intent of the artist and the accepted evaluations of the work (that is. it wants nothing further to do with the object as such. literally. being an artist came to mean “questioning the nature of art. in the presence of the proper ventriloquist – statements about the nature of space.: 53). “The colored daubs and streaks on the canvas become.” The idea of art as illusionistic representation of something other than itself is replaced by the idea that the experience of art should be a purely visual encounter between the work and the viewer. to which the public responded often enough with bewilderment. then art is whatever art critics write about. The style of the museum’s building and its announcements of the kind of art within go far toward shaping the visitor’s self-definition and his or her sense of the experience to come. and representation” (Mitchell 1986: 42). Leading American museums usually include a section of African arts. “Art no longer cares to serve the state or religion. Conceptualists such as Joseph Kosuth discovered this. at a price. “the linguistic nature of art. out of words. with apparent indignation. in the museum’s bookshop. its implicit gendering. The question of interpretation. and believes that it can exist in and for itself. Reframing Translating art begins with framing and reframing the physical experience of encountering art. the eye is guided by the context of exhibition and by abundant verbiage available. as it has been said. It is argued with respect to fine art. it no longer wishes to illustrate the history of manners. Erstwhile “primitive artifacts” are now increasingly being accorded the kind of architectural framing that announces their status as art. for them. though – 255 – . thus presents itself in different ways depending on the category of art in question and the social background of the audience. In practice. Art came to be more and more an insider’s game. art is said to be “about” nothing except itself.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art contemplation without words or actions is only characteristic of those who possess the immediate familiarity acquired by the imperceptible training of prolonged exposure” (ibid. and the autonomy of the art work itself. which for most people takes place in a museum or gallery.” in the 1960s. or the translation of meaning and value. If you make paintings you are already accepting (not questioning) the nature of art” (Prinz 1991: 47). If. and producing innumerable works which “challenged the viewer’s assumptions” about the metapragmatics of the possibility of art. perception. without things. In much of twentieth-century art theory. anthropology is defined by what anthropologists do.

and bodily gesture. Critics asked whether there is a discrete unity. They objected to the display of cartoon-like popular painting and trade signs – 256 – . In a series of exhibitions at the Museum for African Art in New York. the show was also condemned both for overturning traditional categories and perspectives. in his elaborate presentation of “African Art in Motion” at the National Gallery in Washington D. Robert Farris Thompson. amid intense argument. Susan Vogel experimented with different perspectives. Besides showing examples of a wide variety of visually interesting objects. Los Angeles). resituating these objects in an alternative category means that visitors arrive with different expectations.” the qualities of whose products could be independently discussed. and conventional. appropriate to art.” aware that the term is close cousin to “primitive” and seems to exclude their work from the dignities of universal art. voyeuristic sense of African sculptures that the camera gives us. but radically different from and superior to whatever Africans have produced and are producing in colonial and postcolonial times. “Art/artifact” (1988) discussed the careers followed by the objects on their way to becoming “art. The French government’s recent rethinking of the place of primitive arts. static. called “Africa Explores: Twentieth Century African Art” (1991) was intended to challenge the idea of art in Africa as tribal. “Africa. replacing the expression “arts primitifs” with “arts premiers” (whose implications are similar!). Vogel’s most ambitious venture. Reframing extends to the way exhibits are mounted.Wyatt MacGaffey European museums are still segregated. and the three-dimensional. textiles and blown-up photographs. in 1974 (originally at the University of California.C. and the planned construction of a grand new museum. dance. insisted that African art could only be understood in relation to ritual.” and the effects of showing them in a variety of display styles. led to the massive and controversial exhibit “Magiciens de la Terre” at the Centre Pompidou in 1989. The great collection of art from northeastern Congo acquired by the American Museum of Natural History in 1915. curator of “African Reflections” (Schildkrout and Keim 1990). “Closeup” (1990) explored the tension between the simplifying. He violated “fine art” conventions by complementing the objects with continuous audio-visual recordings. according to Enid Schildkrout. in 1990 could not have been exhibited as anything else. African studio artists objected to being labeled as “African. that the objects are displayed and lit in a different way. and for being conventionally ethnocentric. In a later exhibition in the same locale he was obliged to revert to a more restrained curatorial style and relegate his commentaries to an accompanying volume (Thompson and Cornet 1981). as it was meant to do. which could not have been exhibited then as art. and the commentaries attached to them. and that the accompanying narrative also changes. performance-oriented nature of the pieces themselves. the introduction of a small section of “primal” masterpieces in the Louvre. Though widely praised. Vogel sought new lines of critical thinking about African artistic production.

The complete penetrative grasp of a text. George Steiner begins his book on language and translation with critical interpretations of passages from Shakespeare. forces reconceptualization in the current political context. the comparison is explicit in Fernandez’ approach to the Gabonese cult of Bwiti as an imaginative constellation of images comparable to Coleridge’s poem. Translations are always approximate. on the other hand. And. argument itself. The answer to the question “What does this mean?” must begin – 257 – . Modern-art historians working in Africa usually engage in extended fieldwork in the anthropological manner. Translation in art resembles any other. impossible to replicate. we should add. the disciplinary boundary is no longer clear. complement the visual experience by ethnographically based interpretations of the works. but may be aided by the fact that the art works are there to “speak” for themselves. philosophy and other disciplines. the complete discovery and recreative apprehension of its life-forms . which helps us to understand The Wreck of the Deutschland (no such sophisticated tools are available to most ethnographers). .” The task of literary interpretation. Like other art. as Steiner describes it.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art (not unlike those one can see at the Shelburne) as equally “African art” alongside the products of studio artists. and it is not to be expected that any translation will earn consensus. art in Africa is an experience of certain objects. however. including for example the Admiralty’s Dictionary of Naval Equivalents. Translating The hefty volumes that accompany recent exhibits include essays which. is closely similar to that of the ethnographer. Such commentary is traditionally “anthropological. not just the objects themselves. He goes on to list the lexical aids available to the student of English literature. Kubla Khan (Fernandez 1982: 9–11). But. besides challenging the enduring myths.” although the contributors now often include specialists in history. It is not clear. literature. “these are externals. the arguments are political. which they saw as raising traditionally Western issues and selecting its own answers. Fundamentally. that African artists and critics would have any less difficulty than Aborigines do in translating their meanings across categories and preconceptions to a foreign audience. although the latter’s product will inevitably fall still further short of “completeness”. is an act whose realization can be precisely felt but is nearly impossible to paraphrase or systematize” (Steiner 1975: 25). Even within one language. meanings vary in time and space. despite Steiner’s confident use of the word “complete. showing how much interpretation is needed before the modern reader can come close to the resonances the texts may have had for their original audiences. says Steiner. but good ones are best regarded as works of art in their own right. Jane Austen and Rossetti. . And some denounced the ethnocentrism of the entire project.

Anthropologists. dominate discussion and political conflict. practices and symbols resemble those of the corresponding institutions elsewhere. It creates translation problems of another order than those of the distance between Shakespeare’s England and George Steiner’s. On the other hand. questions about who did or should have known what. from which it is believed that profound though unspecifiable benefit can be derived. African ideas of knowledge are more realistic: knowledge that is free and open to everybody is not worth having. in Washington D. is traditionally the subject matter of anthropology.Wyatt MacGaffey with statements that – though the objects. Whereas the classical function of art was to brag abut power. is likely to be very different from that of the museum or gallery. simply because their view does not include ‘art’ in the Western sense of the word. on the other hand.. as Mary Nooter put it in the title of an exhibition and the accompanying book devoted to this topic: the visible functions to keep the invisible invisible (Nooter 1993). business. This institutional plurality (in the United States or Canada. to which everybody should have access. This idea is necessarily contradicted by others. real knowledge is dangerous. and should be available only to specially qualified persons. in rituals and sumptuary displays. are respected and visually powerful – the experience of the objects. Susan Vogel says that if she had written it earlier she would have used the language of art history to present the objects as Baule “art. museums and galleries are ideally open to everyone. African “art”. “‘Art’ cannot be described from a Baule point of view at all.C. all countries in the world today incorporate a “modern” institutional sector whose buildings. or between Norwegian and Italian. – 258 – . such as that of privacy. and probably includes museums and possibly art schools. draws attention to the necessary boundaries of knowledge by concealing as well as revealing. to their own considerable embarrassment. the military and the judicial system.” Seeing and Not Seeing The concept of a “show” or exhibition creates the first problem. The dominant Western idea of knowledge since the Enlightenment is that it is a public good. objects are displayed in them in ways favorable to exalted looking. and when. like artworks elsewhere. the divide between Native America and the dominant sector).” But her many years of research have led her to the uncomfortable knowledge that Baule categories of objects and experience are so different from those of the culture to which the book is addressed that no direct translation is possible. and by the practical needs of government. In art. In the book accompanying her most recent exhibition. have not yet established a satisfactory vocabulary to designate such “otherness. African art is more likely to hint at it.” Vogel found that in order to understand Baule art she was obliged to explore lived facts of Baule existence. devoted to Baule art from Côte d’Ivoire. for example.

such as “food and eyeglasses. stay put to be contemplated in silent reverie. “neither approach is wrong. and fastidiously preserved by an appointed official. When not in use.” such a stool. parallels rather than substitutes for the appreciation of Baule work that can be developed from the perspective of Western museum culture. is only rarely brought out (Roberts and Roberts 1996: 154). which is not a seat but a repository for the king’s spirit. it dances. is to insist that the visible object is sufficient unto – 259 – . using a prescribed type of wood obtained from the forest in a prescribed fashion. The result of this exploration. “The more important a Baule sculpture is. which it is the function of the mask to hide. What matters may not be what the thing looks like. The tendency in twentiethcentury art. slow dance. . which otherwise is just a piece of wood. or only by men. Africans may conserve but do not “collect” their art and – so far from being trapped in tradition – make a point of freeing themselves from the dictates of the copy (Strother 1998: 31). It may rush past in deliberate obscurity. but what it does. but neither is complete” (Vogel 1997: 17).” As she moves in a gentle. The relationship between words and images is a vexed question with a long history in Western art. when at home. the less it is displayed. . Baule may admit to having “seen” such sacred things as a men’s mask. for no one must gaze on the face of the mother. matching her steps with the drum rhythms. govern people’s reactions as much as any visible motifs (Drewal 1977). as we have seen. which is carried in an almost horizontal position and largely obscured by a long white cloth. the Eyánlá mask is kept partially or completely concealed. amid noise and dust. as does the Yoruba mask Eyánlá. Other artworks may be seen only by initiates. an African art object may be returned to its special place. described by Henry Drewal: “Preliminary masqueraders prepare the entrance of Eyánlá. just as in public debates the most senior and respected people speak the least” (Vogel 1997: 108). the great mother. the elders of the cult flock around her to limit the audience’s view of the headdress.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art including many. An African object that becomes art in a museum does not. who comes in total darkness . “swathed in white. the elders apply medicines to empower the mask. or even “who it is. she believes. The much-admired “caryatid” stools of the Luba in Congo are owned only by kings and spirit mediums. When the carver has completed it.” that seem to have nothing to do with artworks but are just as relevant to them as Baule ontology and spiritual beliefs.” After creating the expected effect. but many objects now collected as art would otherwise have been thrown away after use. What Are We Looking At? The next problem is to label the object. the medicines. but nobody would “look at” one (Vogel 1997: 92).

Labels referring to fetishes. J.” At the National Museum of African Art in 1993. I decided to use the indigenous term for them throughout. This text shows clearly why nkisi has no verbal. a water nkisi with power to afflict and to heal. They are composed of earths. They receive these powers by composition. A translation is a metaphor. T. KiKongo: In my country there is a nkisi called Na Kongo. subsequently used by European philosophers such as Hegel to characterize their idea of the absence of civilization. observe its rules lest it be annoyed and punish you. witches. These are the properties of minkisi. Also to oppress people. and those who harbor witchcraft powers. To impose taboos on things and to remove them. we may require our translation to include a certain number of terms regarded as essential to “meaning” but also as “untranslatable. They are composed in order to relieve and benefit people. conceptual or practical equivalent in English. but in fact commentary has always been an essential adjunct of the artwork. fertility cults or ancestor worship fit in with popular notions of the “spirituality” of “simple societies” but are often at best half-truths reiterating evolutionary assumptions in updated form.Wyatt MacGaffey itself. The translation is mine. but it does prepare – 260 – . It knows no mercy. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. which makes all the difference between Beatrice Cenci the Day Before her Execution and the same painting if it had been entitled Young Girl with Hay Fever (Mitchell 1986: 40). and it includes disputable and perhaps tendentious glosses such as “taboo. The first thing visitors encountered was a photograph of Simon Kavuna and the translation of a text written by him in 1915 in his own language. but does not participate in it. and also to remove it. to benefit. Portuguese and Dutch sailors and merchants gradually adapted an illdefined Portuguese term that became not only the word “fetish” but a whole theory of African culture. They are composed to visit consequences upon thieves. other minkisi have these powers also. to kill. Reading the translation does not lead to an immediate and profound understanding of what nkisi means to KiKongo speakers. As African art and religion came to be better known in the late twentieth century. the physical and the spiritual (Wiredu 1992: 324–5). and of relics of the dead. art historians bothered by the derogatory connotation of “fetish” began to use the term “power-object” instead. in fact. To look after their owners and to visit retribution upon them. To destroy. The way of every nkisi is this: when you have composed it. to cause sickness in a man. Reacting against this estrangement. conjuration and consecration. herbs and leaves. ashes. African cultures generally make no distinction between the natural and the supernatural. and to make a profit. Mitchell quotes Mark Twain on the power of the label. as curator of an exhibition of Kongo objects formerly known as fetishes. those who steal by sorcery. not Kavuna’s own. W. a structure of relations in the target language which is allegedly analogous to a structure in the original.” itself a word with a certain imperial history.

transportation. if these conditions are not met. but may well have been expected primarily to make something happen.” is “vain. much of which did not look like art to the collector or which did not lend itself to transportation. In her recent research on the makers of masks among the BaPende of Congo. the role to be played by the wearer during a masquerade” (Mulinda 1995: 158). contextual information such as the object’s ritual use or the mythology associated with it may be considered but only as a supplement. as it may eventually be displayed on the wall of a museum. Having identified the object. would necessarily be written in the original language and thus fail completely – except perhaps as an insider’s joke. The last expert to be consulted is the sculptor who will make a mask consistent with the dance and the theme of the song that accompanies it. nganga. the KiKongo term has been widely adopted in other exhibitions and commentaries dealing with Kongo art. and storage. Zoë Strother found that the making of a mask always begins with the idea for a dance. to provide acoustic and visual enhancement of the dancing body (Strother 1998). Having worked out the steps. in the same way that a photograph of a famous photograph can be presented as a work of art in its own right.” continuous with the original. even though it retains all of its necessary constituents and is therefore physically identical to the connoisseur’s “African artwork.” “empty” (mpamba) and of no particular interest. that it was taken out of a more extensive material apparatus. that it has suffered damage in the process of collection. translation may have to explain that the forces to be manipulated have no direct equivalents in the viewer’s experience or vocabulary. The wooden mask itself. The museum or curatorial approach characteristically focuses on the merit and authenticity of the portable and saleable object. through a proverb.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art the reader to interpret further information more thoughtfully.10 Since the exhibition. Africans may well reverse the order of priority. Strother says. from which all else follows. How many such terms (and their interrelations) are to be incorporated? Should I oblige my reader to get used to not only nkisi but also nsiku. – 261 – . A Kongo authority says of Kongo Ndunga masks that the carved wood part “is clearly incomplete and devoid of meaning unless we take account of many additional elements that specify and dictate. the originator seeks out competent drummers with whom to develop the rhythms. the object. The performance itself had aspects of entertainment or commemoration. the masquerade performance centers on a dialogue between drummer and dancer. is only part of a costume intended. that it perhaps was never sufficient unto itself but was something like a stage prop in a performance that the viewer will have to imagine. An nkisiobject is only potent when the rules it imposes on those associated with it are being observed and while the expert for whom it was composed is still alive. we will probably have to explain that the thing on view is only a reduced version of the original. kindoki and more? A fully metonymic “translation.

” In certain kinds of African art.” Much of the critique directed against primitive art held that it represented reality incompetently. Though sculptors are perfectly capable of carving likenesses. simple shape.” The relatively large size of the mask indicates its importance. she embodies both genders. These are brief quotations from elaborate Pende theories relating appearance to personality. finding that both kinds are “powerful systems for naturalizing social and cultural difference by making it seem natural and inevitable” (p. and suggests by analogy that she mediates between this visible world and the more powerful world of spirits. however. it indicates the ambiguous otherness of the mother.Wyatt MacGaffey Representation Classical European art. with few (and debatable) exceptions they have avoided doing so until recent times. The object in its original context may have been “read” as much as it was “seen. whose relations are at issue in the cult. The “beard” is no ordinary beard. which Strother compares at some length to Western physiognomies. Representation. that is. is not a portrait of a punitive force but a visual statement of the relationship between that force and the unknown individual against whom it is to act.” quite apart from songs sung and stories told in accompaniment. women have lowered lips” (Strother 1998: 133–35). Eyánlá is a bold. the details of which it is composed include a checklist of the restrictions and procedures to be observe when it is invoked (MacGaffey 2000: 113). Drewal says that the names of the empowering medicines applied to Eyánlá may have double – 262 – . are those of ideally beautiful women. They choose to emphasize the projecting ridge over the eyes in a male face. but its function is similar to that of an nkisi which might be so collected. 106). and is always selective (Gell 1998: 25–26). flat “beard. the viewer of objects now exhibited in a museum who seeks to understand them must be prepared to deal with complex codes relating to essence rather than appearance. In short. with threatening arm upraised and bristling with nails. An anthropomorphic nkisi. The female figures in Luba stools. A large rock in Lower Congo “is” (represents?) the late chief Me Mbuku Mbangala in his new role as a simbi spirit because it marks his presence at a particular place. and the long white cloth symbolizes the unity and prosperity of the community. but they are not portraits of any particular woman. it has not been collected as art because it is heavy and ordinary to look at. can take many forms. consisting of a head with a long. The upper lip is triangular. standing for a complex of ideas about kingship and its secrets. . the prominence of the forehead suggests that it is swollen with spiritual force. transforming it into a bulging protrusion visible from a distance. who “possesses two bodies”. . particularly after the discovery of vanishing-point perspective. took pride in its “realism. the words that give meaning are “built in. “The mouth of a man must be like an angry person . Pende sculptors made it clear to Strother that good sculpture abstracts from the physical appearance of real individuals to express deeper truths.

dust from the road induces target persons to go in a particular direction (Drewal 1977: 77). Museum studies today pay much attention to the ways in which guiding narratives are implicit in the museum itself and the selection of the objects. who may then be able to discuss with them his or her best understanding of the subtle congruences and noncongruences between Baule or Yoruba values and more familiar ones.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art meanings. Such distinctions are created. translation and retranslation.” can also be translated “come down join us”. narratives about fine art have conveyed the message that great art is almost exclusively the work of men. whereas a century ago they would have been presented not as art at all but as evidence of the superiority of the society that had acquired it. In the present context. including critical commentary. and that little-known cultures are as full of interest as others. racism and condescension should be eliminated. the principal relevant difference lies in the way objects destined to be set apart as sacred (because instrumental in maintaining social values both central and contested) are produced. provide a relatively sympathetic and receptive audience for the translator. but those that were would have more than a visual impact on native speakers. When the objects come from some other society altogether. the way they are organized to carry out basic social functions. translators still face the basic anthropological problem that societies (by definition) vary in their institutional structure – that is. and therefore presents anthropologists and other translators with a special opportunity to show that exotic arts are more than curiosities. opposed and eventually changed by political action. Impediments to translation in art include the art idea itself. maintained. but most people are not anthropologically trained. experienced and conserved. Art attracts a wider public than most ethnography (the number of museumgoers rises by the millions every decade). the accompanying narrative is now likely to argue for their artistic value. Conclusion The work of translating art (endowing an object with an enabling narrative) takes place at several levels. Many of the medicines in a Kongo nkisi are included on the same principle. although the public may not have been aware of it. If elements of chauvinism. If the – 263 – . Kukubole. “dust from the road. For example. who know about this sort of thing. recent books and exhibitions have been devoted to exposing and rewriting this story. which contains a set of invidious moral distinctions closely related to the ideological functions of art in modern society. It is still not fully resolved that “fine art” is not exclusively the product of Western or “modern” society. Anthropologists. not all of them would be visible. The narrative is also likely to dwell on the history of the more or less violent ways in which many of them were acquired.

Museum für Völkerkunde. Museums devoted to ornament and design. 5. commentary can explain what kind of object this is. 2. incredibly. 1923). I have given brief samples from a rich recent literature on African art. was inaccessible to scholarship. in Moby Dick.” Curios are now produced in large quantities for tourist and foreign markets and sold under such names as “international culture. nor meant to be. and whatever other aspects of the cultural context are relevant to reach some understanding of what it meant to those who produced it. but which are helping to demolish earlier views of primitive art still entrenched in the minds of all too many people. Trocadéro – 264 – . a stage in an ongoing ideological process. “Negro art” from Africa was valued by some in the 1920’s because of the supposed limitations of “the Negro mind. . most of my examples in this chapter will refer to African objects and the ways in which they have been presented. Human beings. though in fact it is patronizing. The Ethnological Society of Paris was founded in 1839. Japanese artists. Harvard. still widely held.” 3. 4. 1868. is believed by those who hold it to be generous. great curios you know. mentions “’balmed New Zealand heads. This romantic view. were described in the late nineteenth century as childlike. from works that are not. alive and dead. It is very much as if children played at pirates or detectives till they no longer knew where play acting ended and reality began” (Gombrich 1995: 43). definitive. such as the one that became the Victoria and Albert. superficial and extraneous (Robbins 1976: quoting a critic in the New York Times. .” which beyond a certain point rejected instruction. of course. Herman Melville. Since I am by profession an anthropologist specializing in Central Africa. close to nature. 6. They are helping to deconstruct the category itself. were originally ridiculed. and incapable of abstraction (Connelly 1995: 15). Berlin. 1878. Notes 1. remained primitive and therefore retained basic ideas which were not frittered away by the invasion of the supplementary.Wyatt MacGaffey power of the artwork as presented sufficiently motivates the viewer to take time for words. were also imported as curios and exhibited in various entertainments and museums right through to the end of the twentieth century (Lindfors 1999). The fifteenth edition of Gombrich’s The Story of Art still tells us that tribesmen “sometimes live in a kind of dream-world in which they can be man and animal at the same time . 1866. how it was made and used. the Peabody Museum.

The Predicament of Culture. realistically or symbolically. 7. Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press. Chapter 3 in this volume). J. The Sleep of Reason: Primitivism in Modern European Art and Aesthetics. “The good ethnographer must . . New York: Basil Blackwell. the first version of the Congo Museum in Tervuren. Tradition and Creativity in Tribal Art. The Voice of Prophecy and Other Essays. “The Paradox of Folk Art. P. Bourdieu. Berkeley: University of California Press. Anderson. Paris (now the Musée de l’Homme). 1996. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Connelly. The first picture of one in the journal African Arts appeared in a commercial advertisement in 1968. L. Ardener. In this way the ethnographic text “at least provides in toto a chunk of something of a descriptive backing so the term can denote for the reader who makes it to the end” (Michael Silverstein. K. 1898. 1988. D. he will enable the reader to create from their elements new combinations that will be closer to the ‘native experience’ being recorded” (Ardener 1989: 94. 1979. F. and hope that by applying enough of them. – 265 – . References Ames. (ed. A work with meaning was one that can be interpreted as representing some object or idea. . the first as an illustration to an article only in 1972. MacGaffey 2000: 50). Edwin Ardener called this approach in translation the method of language shadows. New York: Dover. and A. 9. Art in Primitive Societies. S. 1977. Outstanding examples of Kongo “nail fetishes” (nkisi nkondi) now sell for upwards of one million dollars. Biebuyck. The term “folklore” itself was coined in 1846. 1989. F. Curry suggests that perhaps the best definition of “American folk art” is that it is stuff collected as such in the early twentieth century by people with certain attitudes (Curry 1987). . New York: Guggenheim Museum. 8. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. “Enduring Myths of African Art. Winterthur Museum. 1995. Primitive Art. . New York: Prentice-Hall. folklore societies were founded in Britain in 1878 and in America in 1888. Darbel.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Museum. 10. use categories and labels in an ambiguous manner .” In Africa: Art of a Continent.” In Beyond Necessity. 1927. S. The Love of Art: European Art Museums and their Public. Boas distinguished art from decoration by the presence of meaning. 1990 [1969]. E. Belgium. 1969. Boas. Clifford. R.). Blier.

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in the section on Ganowanian kinship terminology. – 269 – . in their ethnographies. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity in the Human Family. while others were obtained by American missionaries and consular officials overseas. working in Papua New Guinea. Comparativists from Morgan to Murdock have used kinship terminologies which others collected without questioning their accuracy. Morgan understood that if people recognize that in their own culture the kin terms that they use form a system. For example. rarely discuss the degree of control that they have over the languages spoken in the area where they have done their field work. Lewis Henry Morgan’s monumental study of kinship terminologies. some of which he himself collected. was that missionaries did not know their own kinship systems and even after it was explained to them. Initially Morgan praised the work of the missionaries because they resided for longer periods of time in distant places. he noted they had difficulty in filling out the schedules. nor do they deal with the question of how they have handled translations. However.–11– Are Kinship Terminologies and Kinship Concepts Translatable? Abraham Rosman and Paula G. Comparative studies of kinship by anthropologists in the nineteenth century assumed that kinship terminologies could be freely translated from one language to another. did the bulk of their research in Pidgin English (Tok Pisin) rather than in the native language of the people with whom they worked. The principles by which it is organized frame experience. as we shall point out below. considered the quality of the translation of the terms from the original language into their English equivalents. Morgan returned to the topic of missionaries working among Native Americans. some ethnographers. The problem. 134). the radical differences between our system and that of the Indians created additional difficulties (Morgan 1871: 133. as Morgan saw it. Rubel The study of kinship systems has been central in the development of anthropological theory. and this time he was critical of them. was based upon schedules of kin terms. The kinship terminology plays a crucial role in understanding how a kinship system is organized. Kinship terminology is a system of classification. they are better able to recognize such systems in other cultures and they become aware of the fact that these systems differ from their own. Though they often resided for fifteen or twenty years among Indians and had extensive knowledge of the language. Ethnographers. Only Morgan and Malinowski.

were able to provide him with precise information enabling him to trace out the system in minute detail. the failure was nearly complete” (1871: 6). This represents Morgan’s attempt to map the native system on to our own system. he presented a series of “propositions” which were said to characterize all of the “nations” in the Ganowanian family with the exceptions presented (Morgan 1871: 145ff). who spoke English even imperfectly. in contrast to the use of a descriptive term. . Using the descriptive term was the common “mistake” made in the diplomats’ schedules. However. particularly “half-bloods” (his term). It is interesting to note that when Morgan calls these deviations. he is implicitly assuming English kinship usage as the basis for his evaluation. However. According to Morgan.g. such as in Africa. the informant gives back the terms “father’s sister’s son” in the Crow or Choctaw language. e. “. Mexico and Central America. father’s sister’s son. he found that many Indians. he does not discuss the “deviation” in which father’s sister’s – 270 – .g. and much better than we do our own . . “It will thus be seen that to obtain their system of relationship it was far preferable to consult a native Indian. Rubel When Morgan collected information himself. Though diplomats were able to procure information on the “Aryan” family for Morgan. the same term. his examination of what he called Ganowanian “structure” verified these propositions. South America. groups together into larger families.a. father. . the philological work that had been done on these languages provided him with his table of organization. its equivalent in our kinship terminological system. Below the heading are the native terms for a series of different “tribes” or “nations” which Morgan. Morgan arranges the two hundred odd kinship terms in vertical columns. instead of the Crow term for “father. Each column is headed by a kin term described descriptively.. son. He states. Though the state of linguistic research on Native American languages was embryonic in Morgan’s time. in his discussion.” In Crow kinship terminology.” they were the most reliable translators (Morgan 1871: 134). The basic framework which organized the research described in Systems of Consanguinity was a linguistic one. For example. cousin. “Knowing their own method of classification perfectly. such individuals can also have problems in translation because of their own situation and their particular relationship to their American Indian culture. rather that a white interpreter well versed in the Indian language” (Morgan 1871: 135). Morgan saw linguistic relationships as an indication of a historic relationship. In his charts. ah-h. is used for one’s father and for one’s father’s sister’s son. when the differences of language were too great. some of whom had received some schooling. Morgan recognized a number of deviations from these propositions including the absence of “aunt” and “uncle” terms among the Crow.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. . e. In that situation. After the column for each native term there is a column labeled “translation” which contains the English translation.

was more particularly useful to those who. implying some kind of historic relationship. Rivers tells us that Arthur. H. . Rivers. like myself. had been in Queensland. Child. As Rivers explains. Hu. mother. his informant. The recognition that there is a structure or system. The more general form is inalienable possession. used for parts of the body and for – 271 – . owing to the great difference between the systems of relationship of savage and civilized peoples. using the five minimal terms. However. which we now call Iroquois or Dravidian. probably as an indentured laborer. these two groups of tribes are next to one another in Morgan’s chart. “The Genealogical Method of Anthropological Inquiry” presented a method of collecting kinship terminology which became the standard for future generations of field workers. times wholly insufficient to acquire that degree of mastery over the native language to enable it to be used as the instrument of intercourse” (p. . R. In the article. . .Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? son is called father not only for the Crow but also for the southeastern tribes like the Creek and Cherokee. Wi) will be found in all societies. Rivers at the turn of the century made very significant contributions to the study of kinship. W. it is desirable to use as few terms denoting kinship as possible. nowhere in the text is there any indication that Morgan recognized that these two groups of tribes had the same structure of kinship terminology. 100). which is shared by several tribes. As Morgan notes above. enables one to deal with translation in a more global fashion. that marriage is a cultural universal. “The first point to be attended to is that.” and then to obtain the Guadalcanal kinship terminology without Rivers knowing the language. first described the way in which he collected the genealogy of an informant from Guadalcanal. bilingual native speakers are the best sources of information about the kinship terminology. there are several points implicit in his discussion. a structure different from that of the Dakota and Iroquois. ask my informant the terms which he would apply to the different members of his pedigree [genealogy]. and therefore there will be terms for them in every language. The method which Rivers used to gain information on the kinship terminology was to “. This presupposes that the child everywhere is born from two parents. Mo. One is the assumption that the five minimal terms given above (Fa. are only able to visit savage or barbarous peoples for comparatively short times. Rivers was aware that the possessive in Melanesian languages takes two forms. His article entitled. that these five statuses or positions are recognized universally. 107). child. and complete pedigrees can be obtained when the terms are limited to the following: father. to elicit his genealogy or “pedigree. this method “.1 As Rivers noted. His knowledge of English enabled Rivers. Though Crow and the Southeastern tribes had been placed in different branches or dialect groups. in the article. and reciprocally the terms which they would apply to him” (p. husband and wife” (Rivers 1968 [1910]: 97). Though Rivers does not deal directly with the question of the translation of kinship terminology. which we would today call “Crow”.

.” The second form. This holds true of two civilized languages as well as of a `native’ and a `civilized’ one. .” He begins with the “absolutely true proposition that the words of one language are never translatable into another. Malinowski’s solution is to see translation as a matter of representing the cultural reality of one society in the language of another. noting. The translation often robbed the text of all its significant characteristics – rubbed off all its points – so that gradually I was led to note down certain important phrases just as they were spoken in the native tongue. though the greater the difference between two cultures the greater the difficulty of finding equivalents” (Malinowski 1965[1935]: 11). This information regarding the way different forms of possessive pronouns are attached to kin terms is important because it provides additional ethnographic information about the meanings of the terms. Malinowski also cautions us about the need to keep “homonyms apart. word-for-word translation and free translation. and cognates of the word under discussion (p. In the first chapter of Argonauts of the Western Pacific. 16). I found still some difficulty in writing down the statement directly in translation which at first I used to do in the act of taking notes. – 272 – . Malinowski makes much greater use of ethnographic texts. alienable possession. On the other hand. Rubel “terms of relationship. Malinowski presents his discussion of “the methods used in the collection of ethnographic material”. (Malinowski 1922: 24) In his analysis of Trobriand horticulture. till at last I found myself writing exclusively in that language. word for word. Since no simple equivalence of word for word is adequate. rapidly taking notes. besides being utilized in the writing up of my account. interestingly enough. This work also includes a more detailed discussion of translation in general in a section. The translation must always be a re-creation of the original into something profoundly different. entitled “The Translation of Untranslatable Words. gardening. and enables a more accurate translation. Since strict verbal equivalents are “. Regarding his own work in Kiriwinian. 11–12). than I recognized that I was thus acquiring at the same time an abundant linguistic material and a series of ethnographic documents which ought to be reproduced as I had fixed them. and then by having contrastive forms provided which are opposite in meaning.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. he noted. Coral Gardens and Their Magic. but invariably the translation of whole contexts” (pp.” In Malinowski’s “Supplement” to Ogden and Richards The Meaning of Meaning. and how he developed a procedure for translation. Trobriand words are to be defined by being placed in the cultural context in which they are used (like competitive kula. it is never the substitution of word for word. he again discusses this problem. As my knowledge of the language progressed. never to be found. I put down more and more in Kiriwinian. is used for ownership and temporary possession (Rivers 1968 [1910]: 488). of each statement. No sooner had I arrived at this point. or love magic).

one suspects that it is. In our discussions of Rivers. which has a single possessive form. we saw that the organization of possessive pronouns was relevant to the consideration of kinship terminology. Nowhere does Malinowki describe the method he employed for gathering information on the Trobriand kinship terminology. Though Malinowski does not specifically indicate that this is the alienable form. and this indeed is the case in Trobriand kinship. He shows that there are two forms of possessive in the Kiriwinian language. a different prefix (ulo) is given for the terms for husband and wife. Malinowski makes the point that one must also clearly understand the grammar and general structure of the language which one wishes to translate. it is necessary to use the lexical equation of an English and a native word. the translation must indicate “my” – alienable or “my” – inalienable. as in other Melanesian languages – alienable possessive and inalienable possessive. not by giving their imaginary equivalent – a real one obviously cannot be found – but by explaining the meaning of each of them through an exact Ethnographic account of the sociology. or whether it covers an entirely foreign conception. which is discussed in The – 273 – . Malinowski. Such words can only be translated into English. not another. all expressions relating to native beliefs. The implication here is that the ethnographer must have a better than adequate knowledge of the field language in order to successfully convey the cultural reality of his or her informants. is clear.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? But the object of a scientific translation of a word is not to give its rough equivalent sufficient for practical purposes. language is an essential aspect of cultural reality and that cultural reality must be utilized in translations. When translating alienable and inalienable pronouns into English. As Rivers pointed out. This is to prevent the ethnography from becoming unreadable by overloading it with native terms. though this is theoretically inadequate. magical rites – all such words are obviously absent from English as from any European language. This may be because the father relationship cannot be ended. but to state exactly whether a native word corresponds to an idea at least partially existing for English speakers. Malinowski notes that for “practical convenience”. also recognizes their importance. All words which describe the native social order. The term (gu) – inalienable “my” – is provided as a suffix or an infix for almost all the kinship terms given in Malinowski’s chart of the kinship terminology. culture and tradition of that native community. Although the father (tama) is considered an affine in Trobriand kinship. This kind of analysis of pronoun use enables us to have a better understanding of Trobriand ideas about kinship. That such foreign conceptions do exist for native languages and in great number. kinship terms in Melanesian languages almost always take the inalienable form. for grammar compels a speaker to use one grammatical form. (1923: 300) In the end. ceremonies. in his own analysis of kinship terminology. However. the term tama takes the inalienable suffix gu like all the other kinship terms save husband and wife. In Malinowski’s eyes. since this relationship can be ended through divorce. and not a true relative (veyola).

Malinowski considers such terms anomalous. He sees kinship terms from the point of view of the order in which a child learns terms. In Leach’s approach. When he cannot find a common denominator. dogs. the term tama. an extension and a metaphor” (1929: 442–443). Did he use Rivers’ genealogical method? Or did he gather the information about kinship terms in the form of a series of texts from which he extracted the terms and information regarding their use? His use of the kin terms and his translations in the text of The Sexual Life of Savages is not consistent. in The Sexual Life of Savages talks about the “father” relationship. . in terms of the father relationship. is the anomaly of a father. Its meaning is then extended to other persons up to the periphery of the vaguely defined boundary. The term tabugu “also has the wider meaning of ‘grandparent. Rubel Sexual Life of Savages. The primary meaning of a term refers to the first person for whom the child is taught to use the term. is very definitely distinguished from her.” and all persons called tama in Kiriwinian are equally tama. The alternative to Malinowski’s approach is Leach’s category approach to kinship terms. Malinowski argues that “The primary meaning of this word is ‘father’s sister’. given an entirely different meaning – something like ‘second mother’ or ‘subsidiary mother’ . Some kinship usages he even considers to be homonyms. “all dogs belong equally to the category. in its primary meaning. ‘ancestor’ and ‘descendant’” (1929: 442). The result for Malinowski. tama. The term is extended to a series of men. mother’s sister. When the term tama is translated by Malinowski in the ethnography. in its widest sense. . these individuals are referred to as “fathers” by extension. The word inagu extended to the mother’s sister is. Malinowski’s position on meaning and its extension in the use of kinship terms is directly relevant to his approach to translation.’ ‘grandchild. is used for the individual who is recognized as the father of the child. and he never considers their relation to the Trobriand word tabu meaning “forbidden act. According to Malinowski. ‘all the women not of the same clan’” (1929: 423). by doing this type of translation. from the outset. Similarly. there can be no doubt that the new use of the word remains always what it is. It also embraces ‘father’s sister’s daughter’ or ‘paternal cross-cousin. although she is called by the same term as the own mother. in ego’s own generation.’ and wider yet. Malinowski. and. by extension. in discussing the kinship term tabu. and these are extended to members of other kinds of social groupings beyond the family. “.’ or. inagu. Malinowski does not recognize that there is a principle which places the two sets of kinship terms (“lawful woman” and “ancestor/ descendant”) in the same category. In this sense. ‘all the women of the father’s clan’. who. for example.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. His field notes contain a whole series of genealogies. He treats them as homonyms. . the term signifies “lawful woman” with whom both sexual intercourse and marriage are proper (see Malinowski 1929: 450–451). Malinowski takes the position that the primary meanings of kinship terms are those within the family. .” – 274 – . He notes.

later in the text he states. let’s say English. – 275 – . father’s brother. Nor does Malinowski inform us as to why one extension is “anomalous” and another not. and she calls him “father. Malinowski says that one looks for an English equivalent. As they are here. In his “Table of Relationship Terms. For example. because the male crosscousin calls his female cross-cousin (MoBrDa) “daughter. ignoring generational differences. males of one’s father’s clan (1929: 434). which provides a key to the meaning of the term – that is. though we have a single category term uncle. consanguineal vs.” latu. His argument is that. if a Trobriand woman is called latu by a male ego. for it demonstrates the influence which language has upon customs and ideas” (1929: 447). and that the meanings of tama differs when applied to the two though they both are classified together in the single category. As we shall see below.” Malinowski glosses tama(gu) as “Father. “The anomalous extension of the word for father (tama) to father’s sister’s son is important. tama. father’s sister’s son.” tama. the translation applies “father” to “all males of father’s sub-clan” including the father’s heir (his sister’s son). quite a different theory from that of Malinowski.” the cultural context in which the terms are used. that the behavior toward the two is very different. in a word or phrase. Malinowski never discusses the basis for his saying that the primary meaning of tabu is FaSi.” When confronted with the Trobriand kinship term tama. When the anthropologist is confronted with the kin term for the first time and the need to translate it. Malinowski argues that Trobrianders can and do differentiate their real father from their father’s sister’s son. this inhibits their sexual feelings and prevents marriage. affinal. he may not marry her. In the translation of kin terms. or a page of description of “context. not MoMo.” What is the relationship between translation and this discussion of the way in which primary kin terms – that is. paternal. as we noted earlier.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? The use of the term tama (father) for patrilateral cross-cousin is one of the distinctive features which makes Trobriand kinship terminology a Crow terminology. rules about preferential or prohibited marriages must always be phrased in kinship terms in the native language. we have no difficulty in distinguishing between our different kinds of “uncles” – maternal vs. father’s clansman. However. In similar fashion. Leach argues that kinship terms are category terms. since the primary meaning of latu. terms used within the nuclear family – are extended to kinsmen in other categories of relationship? In translating a term or word into another language. implying that FaSi is closer than MoMo though the term for both is tabu. is “child. as to whether the primary meaning or one of its extensions is intended. according to Malinowski.” treating it like the term for a larger category. when one attempts to map the meaning of terms in the “native language” onto a Western language the ethnographer’s theory – such as Malinowki’s regarding primary terms and their extensions – plays an important role. how is he or she to know whether or not the term refers to someone within the nuclear family or to someone beyond it? It is the “context of cultural reality.

is hardly ever used. “EvansPritchard hardly touched it. nor may a woman marry a man whom she calls father. taught Mead Arapesh. nor may a man marry a woman whom he calls either aunt. she did not phrase its limits in Arapesh kin terms. I asked. In Margaret Mead’s collaboration with Reo Fortune during their Arapesh field work. Since Mead published the data on kinship terminology. Rubel Though Radcliffe-Brown used kinship terminologies in his comparative research. it can be concluded that she collected the data. Fortune’s linguistic informant. as I recorded the names of adult males. she notes. She does not inform us whether she used Arapesh or pidgin English to collect the terminology. without his shedding any light on the problems of translation. I do not know. the children of parents who use brother and sister. ‘What pigeon’ and so received at once the local gens proper name” (Mead 1947: 181). But in an Omaha kinship system. When I made the census. in the following manner: “Formally. In her discussion of the Arapesh marriage rule. Often knowledge of the structure of kinship relationships is of assistance in the translation of kinship terms. Firth thought it was . both Needham and Leach return to a vigorous consideration of kinship terminologies. Mead “analyzed” Arapesh kinship and the kinship terminology without recognizing that it was an Omaha terminology and the implications of that. like ornaments” (1995: 131). . awhilap. – 276 – . supplemented with Arapesh special words” (1940: 337). under the influence of Lévi-Strauss. Lushai and Kuki terminologies in his analyses. Fortes paid only lip service to it. Needham used other people’s translations of Purum. or mother’s brother. However. who was fluent in pidgin English. daughter. or cross-cousins. However. whether I should ever have found it without the help of the pidgin English ‘pigeon’. there are no separate terms for what would be the equivalent of the English terms aunts. whenever necessary. In the Arapesh system. however. Regarding Mead’s knowledge of the Arapesh language. nieces and nephews. Later. she does note that “the word for gens. as we shall see below. or two-generations-apart-child-of-crosscousin terms to each other are not allowed to marry. the other set (FaSiChildren) are called by the terms for SiDa and SiSo. he assumed the accuracy of the data collected by other ethnographers and never discussed the accuracy of the translations. she stated the prohibitions on whom one may marry using English kinship terminology. or nephew” (Mead 1947: 199). . uncles. The pidgin English conversations were. the word for clan or gens. “I used pidgin English in talking to the men who had been away to work and Arapesh in talking to everyone else. one set of cross-cousins (MoBrChildren) are called by the same terms as MoBr and MoSi. the dominant figures in British social anthropology after him ignored the topic. or niece. derived from the Melanesian bird totemic practices. While Leach was very concerned with the translation and meanings of kin terms. Instead. As Schneider notes.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. cross-cousin. it was Fortune who studied the Arapesh language and collected texts.

Some time ago Lévi-Strauss made the point that the function of kin terms was to indicate which relatives ego. as MoFaSiSoSo. not only do kinship terms have meanings in that they designate a category of individuals. as given above. could and could not marry. The translation of kinship terms must therefore pay attention to both of these aspects of meaning. The terms balohan (male) and baloho’ (female) were used for FaFaSiSoSo and FaFaSiSoDa respectively. the marriage rule for the Jinghpaw. it seemed that these two terms were. and that kinship terminologies have other functions as well. The marriage rule phrased in terms of the terminology provides a map which says that anyone called by this term is prohibited as a spouse. anyone called by that term is permitted. the speaker. all other patrilineages were either wife-givers or wife-takers to ego’s own lineage. The structural characteristics of the kinship terminology and the nature of the marriage rule have internal logics of their own. Attempting to use English terms to characterize the marriage rule does not come close to providing an adequate translation of the meanings of the kin terms and the structure to which they are related. just before Lévi-Strauss published Elementary Structures of Kinship. When phrased in lineage terms it stipulates that ego cannot marry into the six lineages which have given or received women from his lineage in the three previous generations.” in which he analyzed Kachin terms as category terms mapped onto to what Leach refers to as an “idealized form of the social order” (Leach 1945: 51). which is unquestionably true. In 1945. glossed as “Grandson. in reality. the former a collateral relative two degrees removed. in accordance with matrilateral cross-cousin marriage. We consulted him in 1972 about this anomaly. The kinship terminology was examined as it related to the marriage rule. and he informed us that there was only one term (balohan) and that the other was a misspelling. but in addition they contain meanings regarding marriageability. Radcliffe-Brown and Mead had paid attention to that observation. Mead’s definition for the term balahan (balohan). – 277 – . the same term and should have been spelled in the same way. Leach published “Jinghpaw Kinship Terminology. male children of all members of first descendent generation. glossed as “Mother’s father’s sister’s son’s son” and balohan. their analysis of the respective kinship terminologies they analyzed would have been strengthened. Reo Fortune had done research on the language in the field and had collected texts in the Arapesh language. In fact. One might argue that Lévi-Strauss’ dictum. Thus.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? Mead’s chart of the kinship terminology includes two terms – balahan. is far too narrow. and the latter a lineal relative two generations down from ego. If Malinowski. thereby providing important clues for the translation of these terms.” Reworking her data on kinship terminology in terms of the structure of an Omaha terminology. In this model. and for SoSo and SoDa. was also incorrect since that individual’s lineage is neither a giver nor a receiver of women from ego’s lineage.

In Leach’s words. has clear implications for translation. One brother must refer to the other brother as either older or younger brother. The Kachins say “they are distinguishable as brother and brother” (Leach 1967: 136). Trobriand or Jinghpaw) into “father. it is a great error to translate Rivers’ five basic terms from a native language (Crow. the primary meaning deriving from relations within the elementary family and the extensions outward to other more distant relationships. mother. According to Leach. Rubel Early in this article. the corresponding words in most other languages are highly polysemic” (pp. According to Leach.” He also rejected Malinowski’s approach to the meaning of kin terms – that is. the problem was to discover the organization which makes Jinghpaw terminology ‘logical’ to a native (1945: 50). whereas in other languages it is applied to a large category of persons and has a wide range of meanings. it is not sufficient to merely use the primary term in English. Leach begins his discussion by arguing that the Kachin view “relationships” in the same manner as a linguist does in phonological analysis – two male persons belonging to the same lineage have a kin relationship and are terminologically differentiated by the factor of age as younger brother and older brother. By the 1960s Leach had become the severest critic of Malinowski’s approach to kinship and kinship terminology. but one must define who and what is included and who and what is not included in a category. as Malinowski does. Leach argues that the Kachin think of kin terms as ‘category’ terms. the author himself may not have understood what he is saying” (Leach 1982: 137–138). . mayu (wife-givers). The argument may not mean what you think.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. it still does. Leach’s approach to kinship terminology emphasizing categories. but that he no longer accepted Malinowski’s tenet of the “universality of the elementary family. in contrast to Malinowski’s approach. When you read anything that an anthropologist has written on the topic of kinship terminology be on your guard. brother. with rare exceptions. tama means father). . only to relationships within the private domain and thus have quite specific meanings. “This particular linguistic pitfall has in the past led to a vast amount of anthropological confusion. his teacher. Leach returned to the Jinghpaw kinship terminology in 1967. while kinship words in most European languages are applied.g. According to Leach. applying a more sophisticated linguistic approach to his reexamination of Jinghpaw kin terms. The concept of ‘category’ as found in Kachin must be a very fundamental one for Kachin – 278 – . “. this time drawing inspiration from Roman Jakobson. the problem lies in the fact that. and dama (wife-takers) – and the relatives in each of these categories live in a different locality. Jinghpaw terms fall into three distinct categories – hpu-nau (ElBrYoBr). Therefore in the translation of kin terms. Leach stated that initially his approach to kinship owed much to the views of Malinowski. 138–139). The term “father” may have a single meaning in English. sister and child” (e.

’ According to Leach. . . as used for all mothers and people whom mother calls sister. One’s mayu ni. is the proto-type of ‘different kind’. the mayu lineage. Just as the English words “kin” and “kind” derive from an older common form. humans are classified in lineages. can curse his sister’s children. includes the other meanings glossed above.’ as in trees. those with whom we fight and those to whom we give women” (Leach 1967: 143). In Kachin. The meaning of the category nu (mother). and that the root meanings of kin terms are also in other Kachin words. And so it is. etc. He had promoted the idea that American – 279 – . all of these structures consist of entities which are “divided” rather than “tied together” – thus demonstrating that they are “structural transformations” of one another. must go beyond the category meanings of these terms. to Leach. The mother’s brother. . payment–debt and exchange. “. Ego perceives his dama lineages as. Therefore the translation of kin terms. He is arguing that the same principles of classification that unite and differentiate kinsmen into categories are also operative in other domains. birds. It is also the term for “lineage” – that is. “.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? speakers (Leach 1967: 136). The term myu is the word for ‘kind. a whole range of other meanings of these terms is revealed.) Leach disagrees with Malinowski’s argument that the different meanings of a term such as the Trobriand term tabu represent homonyms. According to Leach. The implications of Leach’s theoretical approach for the translation of kin terms is considerable. mother’s lineage. as do “time” and “tide.’ ‘original. As a result of the analysis. The social structural category from which mother comes. the metaphors which Kachins employ to represent social links are things which divide rather than things which tie together” (Leach 1967: 136). nu also means ‘mother. but also advocated what he saw as a new way of looking at kinship. the meanings of Kachin kin terms are greatly expanded.” the various meanings of Kachin kin terms must all be considered together to arrive at the meaning of the category for which the kin term stands. constantly demanding gifts and tribute which the dama lineage must pay. David Schneider in A Critique of Kinship (1984) not only criticized the ways in which anthropologists had examined kinship terminology earlier. “Such uses are not ‘metaphors’. Leach maps the structure of kinship terminology onto other Kachin structures – that of the allocation of land–water. (Mayu and myu are related terms. fish. The translation of terms within a category will always depend on the cultural context of the particular usage. Through connections between these words and other structures. they are rather the application of the same idea to different situations. In the conclusion of the article. But I think that if we are to understand what the term nu ‘really means’ when considered as a kinship term we need to take these other uses into account” (Leach 1967: 138). . demonstrating that the domain of kinship does not exist in isolation. who is in one’s mayu lineage.’ and ‘the soft core of anything.’ ‘home. which in turn had important implications for translation. epitomizes greed.

and Lévi-Strauss. has no relationship to step. meaning step as in staircase. since every language has words for kinship categories. the category of kinship seems to rest on assumptions about the biological nature of human reproduction. . anthropologists “adhered to the traditional definition of kinship as the relations arising out of reproduction” (1984: 130). . In Schneider’s view. In fact. myth. he found that informants saw “halfbrother” as a kind of brother. Schneider argues that in American kinship there is a basic distinction between affinal terms. “In-law” clearly has other meanings. but not “step-brother” (Goodenough 1965). which use the modifier “in-law”.” in terms of “the way in which we define it and its functions” (Schneider 1984: 132). In the minds of many anthropologists. he might have looked at how systems of classifications in each language serve to organize semantic domains. it has a name. are what Marcel Mauss referred to as “total social facts” (Schneider 1984: 197). The questions we should be asking are: “. used to refer to a relative created by the marriage of a parent. the word has meaning . A set of kin terms. such as Malinowski. He then proceeds to call into question analyzing culture and dissecting it into separate “institutions” – kinship. . These are the building blocks of which particular cultures are constructed.” (1980: 3). etc. He argues that ideas about institutions like kinship are Western concepts which anthropologists impose on other societies. “it is a cultural construct or unit of some kind because there is a word for it. of what blocks is this particular culture built? How do these people conceptualize their world?” (1984: 197). Boas. while stepbrother is created through the marriage of a parent. What we should be looking at. The connection between the usages is that a relative-in-law has the connotation of a relationship constructed through legal means. following Morgan. But. Had Schneider attended more closely to what Levi-Strauss borrowed from linguistics and specifically from Boas. According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. All societies have a category of persons which our culture classifies as “relatives”. each of which is a native “cultural construct”. art. as contrasted with a blood relative created by natural means. They are homonyms. Rubel kinship was a system of cultural symbols and should be examined in the same manner as other symbolic systems. noting that. or the movement of the foot. Schneider claims that anthropologists have always seen kinship as a “privileged system. Schneider may be correct when he says the “domain” of kinship is vaguely defined in anthropology. religion. The reasoning behind this is that a half-brother shares common blood. the American modifier “step”. . and consanguineal terms for “blood” relatives. societies construct different categories. A kinship terminology is one such system of classification. together form a system or structure. – which are alleged to carry out “functions”. one – 280 – . as Leach had pointed out earlier. according to Schneider. economics. In his analysis of American kinship. Schneider concurs.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. politics. Within this domain. In Goodenough’s research on American kinship.

The typologies of kinship structures employed in anthropology are the products of such comparisons. It would appear that Schneider’s dictum would lead to the conclusion that each culture had its own distinctive “cultural constructs”. art and aesthetics. But cultural relativism is not the answer.2 David Schneider’s critique that the “building blocks” and units for each society should derive from the society itself echoes Boas’ call that linguistic analysis should not proceed by imposing Latin grammatical categories onto native languages of the new world. when one element of the system changes. on the basis of which comparisons and typologies can be created. This would illuminate the categories or “spaces” of meaning encompassed by particular kin terms. A hundred years of ethnographic field work have demonstrated that there are a limited number of ways in which kinship terminology can be ordered. This leads to cultural relativism. The first is the problem that the field worker has in eliciting a kinship terminology from an informant. the position of many postmodernists. to a greater or lesser degree. One would then have recourse to what Malinowski called an examination of how kinship terms were used in a variety of cultural contexts. kin terms and the systems which they comprise are translatable. The semantic categories of a particular society’s kinship terminology are mapped onto a map of genealogical spaces which have English labels. fewer than the number of logically possible types. The construction of each category would be revealed by specifying the cognates of the term and their various referents.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? can begin with kinship terminology rather than kinship. The analytical categories must emerge from each language. and the presence or absence of bilingual informants. Each kinship terminology has an internal logic of its own. untranslatable into those of another culture. Crosscultural comparison involves comparing and contrasting the structure of kinship systems in different societies. Other aspects of culture also have a systemic character. Cross-cultural comparisons have demonstrated that both terminologies and the kinship systems of which they are a part fall into a limited number of categories. they are systems. are important factors in this process. Rivers’ genealogical method may be used to obtain a preliminary picture of the kinship terminology. The knowledge that the field worker has of the language. If one takes into account the cultural context of their use. The constructs utilized in the analysis of kinship terminologies have been refined over the years. The boundaries of such categories would be determined by specifying their “opposites” and what they contrast with. like the phonological systems of a language. Kinship terminologies echo an important point for translation. They are not collections of discreet lexical items. Two problems present themselves with regard to the translation of kinship terms. and religious beliefs have systems of their – 281 – . It is a semantic category found in all languages. Kinship terminology is not ambiguous or vaguely defined. For example. the rest of the system will change accordingly.

pp. “Yankee Kinship Terminology: a Problem in Componential Analysis” In Formal Semantic Analysis. 1947. Leach.” These groups and categories vary from one society to the next. American Anthropologist (Special Publication) 67(5) pt. 59–72. Ward. Freedman (ed. membership categories which serve as identities defining the self. M. Those others are not. Hammel (ed. He is no longer a lonely walker in space. Lastly. Notes 1. The genealogical grid provides the basis for kinship terminologies. 1945. 2. “These are the members of the kinship group to which I belong. – 282 – . those who may steal my cattle or suck my bones when I die. pp. 125–52.).” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 75. with no relationship to systems of marriage and descent or other cultural domains References Goodenough. Rubel own. it can be of enormous help to the translator. 2. pp. kinship terminologies fall into a limited number of types. and the development of the analytical categories which allow cross-cultural comparison. E. A single term in one kinship system may encompass a number of kin terms in a different kinship system. Edmund. Once this is realized. Kinship terms label these groups and categories. became an increasingly formal method of description.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. A. contrastive category. for the child. However. “Jinghpaw Kinship Terminology – an Experiment in Ethnographic Algebra. for example. Terminologies carry out universal functions in all societies – to chart out. Rivers notes that one of the difficulties in obtaining “pedigrees” or genealogies from informants is that there may be a taboo on the use of the names of individuals who are deceased. —— “The Language of Kachin Kinship: Reflections on a Tikopia Model. and each of these types follows its own logic. 259–87. 1965. These are my relatives. and how a change in a component creates a different. They belong to other categories – those I may or may not marry. London: Cass. componential analysis of kinship terminology in the hands of Lounsbury. but they can be specified on a universal genealogical grid. The componential analysis of kinship terminology also deals with categories and the components which comprise their internal construction. in the dark.). those who do or don’t practice witchcraft towards me.” In Social Organization: Essays Presented to Raymond Firth.

Argonauts of the Western Pacific. 3. 3. K. NC: Duke University Press. pp. New York: E. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ogden and I. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. —— The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. pt. 1929. Socioeconomic Life. pp. 1871. London: Athlone. —— “The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages” supplement to C. New York: Harcourt. Commentaries Raymond Firth and David Schneider. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 37. 17. Schneider. Rivers. No. The Meaning of Meaning. Forde (eds. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family. —— Coral Gardens and their Magic. 296–336. pp. A. Lewis Henry.” In Kinship and Social Organization. R. Mead. 317–451. —— The Mountain Arapesh III. pp. R. 1980. 1923. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 40. 159–420. David. pp 1–85. Morgan. As told to Richard Handler. 1995. 2nd ed.C. 1984. Dutton. Richards. D. – 283 – . Bronislaw. H. —— Schneider on Schneider: The Conversion of the Jews and Other Anthropological Stories. “Introduction. Durham. 97–109. American Kinship: A Cultural Account. Malinowski. Washington. —— A Critique of the Study of Kinship. 1965 [1935].Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? —— Social Anthropology. Glasgow: Fontana. Margaret. “The Genealogical Method in Anthropological Inquiry. A. P.). Radcliffe-Brown and C. 1950. London: Oxford University Press. New York: Harcourt.” African Systems of Kinship and Marriage. 2 vols. Radcliffe-Brown. The Mountain Arapesh II. Brace. A. W. R. 1968 [1910]. Supernaturalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. D. 1982. 1961 [1922].: Smithsonian Institution. pt.


2. 135–137. 147 Aramaic. 177–194 Classical. Johann. 213–247 Clifford. 32. 18. 101 formal academic discipline. 213–230. 85. 184. as a. 20. 271. 180 Balinese. 38. 128. 190 Moroccan. 28–31. 58–61. 232–247 Bilingualism. 6 Bateson. 21. 187. 39. 19. 20. 84. 189 Asad. 209. 62. 16.. Talal. 5. 263 Bauman. 29. Lila. 56.. Walter. 57 Bloom. 110 Baule. 13. Bertolt. 38. 25. 96. 8. Walter. 5. 10. 265. 279–281. 10. 32 Burmese. John. 38 Campbell. 1. 33. 188. 36. 147. Benedict. 112. 1. 19. 4. 52 Catholic Church. 5. 164 Basnett. 201. Franz. 17. 131. 21. 112. 33 Christian faith. 252 Block. 37. 128. 57 124 cultural translation. 97. 40 Behaviorism. 39. 96. 46–53. 283 Chinese. 26. 238 Boas. 136.Index Abu-Lughod. 129 Austronesian Languages. 82 Armbrust. 182. 35 Azande. 224–244 Aquinas. 258–9. 86. 25–27. 164 Anthropocentric pragmatism. 146–148. Susan. 7. Suzanne. 204–206. 157. Abdalla S. 12. 45–73 Benedict. 116–122. 215 Arabic. 38 Arapesh. P. Emile. James. 4 Apocalyptic Literature. 192 Cherokee. 16. 97 cultural anthropology. 25. Theodor. 283 Bourdieu. 214. 177. 66. 190 Achebe. 25 anthropological translations. 253. 67–70 Belief Systems. 41 African art. Noam. Alton L. 112. 191. 41. 141–143. Ralph. 192 Biblical and religious texts. 65. 76. 19. 193. Pascal. 181. 147 Benveniste. 187 Bulmer. 146. 88. Ned. 157. 92 prehistory of. Harold. Nicholson. 198 Anthropology American historical anthropology. 6. Thomas. 39. 280 Black American English.. 113. 215. 159. 254 Boyer. 32. 182 – 285 – . 2 Baker. 15 anthropological theory regarding translation. 36 British social anthropology. 160 Adorno. 249–264 Anderson. Ruth. 183 Bakhtin. 124 Becker. 253 Baby Talk. 9. 65. 28. 135–137. 270. 98. 117. 164. 275–277 Area studies. 17 Blier. 39. 7. Mikhail. 29 Benjamin. Gregory. Catholicism. 183 Aristotle.L. 33. 124 analytical concepts in. Steven. 184 Austin. 12. 41. 3. 4. 63. 225 Aranda. 115. 218. Richard. as a. 141–143. 98 Bachofen. 209 Berber. 16. J. 219 Caton. 111. 219. 127 Cargo Cults. 184 Chomsky. 26. 37. 211 Brecht.. 41 Bujra. Chinua. 1 symbolic and interpretive. 169. 19. 37. 124. 155. 55. 1 social science. 197–212. 275 cognitive.

Edward E. Robert. 270. 210 Fat Syntax. 153 Firth. 185. 32. 224. 83–87. 199. 254 Gellner. 185. 76. Daryll. 24. 184–186. 189 Gender. Susan. 259. 114–122. 89. 117. view of cognition. 115. 2–5. 187. 130. Charles A. 191. Ernest. 249 Ethnographies and Ethnographic texts. 265 Forde. 99. 253 Dravidian. 209. 189. 135–148. 183. 160. 96–98. 28. 117. 148. 211. 109–131. 58–64.. 116. 207. 68. 53. 15 grammatical analysis. 179. 19. M. 90. 185 Gell. 14. 214. 85. 61. 87 Greek. 276 Fortune. 52. 88. 12. 191–194. in. 94. 109. 160. 251. Hartry. 126. 190 Drewal. 16. 56. Clifford. Ernestine.Index Coetzee. 33. 197–212 Evans-Pritchard. 14. 64 Folk Art. 16. J. 19–21. 57 Dakota. 206–210. 168. 35. 154–170. 253 Dean-Otting. 116. 250–252. 125–128. 119. 10. Raymond. 239. 13. 128 Colonialism. 264 Douglas. 38. 100. 2. 27 grammatical categories. 189. 80. 202 Creek. 227. 17. 184. 136. 81. 89. 38. 263. 281 Errington. 76. 158. M.. 9. Carlton S. 253. 190. 77. 131. 96. 253 Fortes. 8. Alfred. tribe of Cameroon. Sigmund. 268–270. 31.. 270 Cronin.. 281 grammaticopragmatic categories. 36. 68 Ferguson. 182–184. Luc. 17. 177–179. 250. 3. 6 Crow. Mary. 99. 281 Cultural Systems. Francis. 113. 57–69 Cohen. 37. 11. 253 Fang. William. 271 De Heusch. 16. 260. 112 Grammar. 91. 80. 113. 153. 181. 272–278. 216. 36–38. 269–270 Gauguin. 181 Desconstruction. 121–124. 185 Council of Nicaea and Nicaean Creed. 166. 265 Folk Theory. 10. 209. 201. 16. 54–61. 76–81. 178 Eickleman. 38. 15. 49 Ethnographic museums.. colonization. 7. 63–66. 9. 32. 178. 114. 3. 100. 36. 186. 101. 113. Reo. 100. 187 Freud. 90 Cummins. 213. 162 Ganowanian. John J. 124 – 286 – . 199–200. 32. 276. 268 Connelly. 18. Paul K. Folklore Studies. 149. 29. 162.. 129 European Contact with New World and Asia 1. 33 German. 122.. 182. 161. 76. 272–276 Ethnopsychological classification. Dale F. 127. 124–126. 68. 262–3 Dutch. 277 French. 240 Gumperz. 146. Henry. 25–27. 272 comparative. 198. 184 Filipino. 121. 154. 35 Genetics. 229 Frield. 69. 141. 188. 76. 256 Comparativism. 146. 95 Derrida. 127 Functional-Role Theory. 178. 148–149. 253. 129. 26. 35–37. 252. 182. 7. 109–111. 189 Encyclopaedia of Islam. 128. 11–13. 200. 149. 52. 269. 197. 135. 129. 275. Paul. 80. 186 Gal. Jacques. 159. 53. 199. 100. 8. 66. 276 Fodor. Patrick. 52. 62. 79–83. 110. Anthony. 278 Cultural and Linguistic relativity. 85. 18 Spanish conquest of Americas. 187. 276 Fagg. 2. 112. 271 Dresch. 130.. 20. 77. 250 Coon. 188 English. Mary. 92. 57 Fieldwork 1–5. 161. Meyer– 3. 262 classification systems. Joseph. 118 Field. 87. 6. 231–232 Denotational Textuality. 250 Geertz. 21. 64–66. 164 Ethnic Identities. Jerry. 120. 71. 192. 96. 71 Gaffney. 37. 41 Cognitive Psychology. 2–4. 8. 17.

17. 26. 125. Harry. 89 Kosuth. 182.. 161 Malay. 240–244 Jinghpaw. 161. Martin. 71 Lyotard. 186 Lutz. 280 linguistic anthropology. 170 Malayo-Polynesian Languages. 17 Halperin. 202 Lowie.. G. 52 Kinship and Kin Terms.E. 3. 48. 53. 52. 184. 12. 113 Lexicopragmatic and grammaticopragmatic regularities of language. Marcel. 18. 276. 40. 109 Levi-Strauss. 92. Robert. 252 Mauss. William. 3. 5 Hymes. 269. 213–216. 252. 181. 97. 80 Library of Congress Transliteration System. 164 Hunt. 254. T. 164. 32 Labov. 26. 80 Lexicosemantics. 240. Harry. 199. Judith. 276. 182. Dell. 80 Heath. Immanuel. 272–275. 162 Himmelfarb. 4. Bronislaw. 33. 222–223. 186. David. 162 Islamic politics. 153–170 Inka. 255 Malinowski. 170 Jaynes. 269. 207 Interlanguage movements.F. 280 Mead. 271 Irvine. 255 Kroeber. 99. 164–168. B. 52.Index Haeri. 210. 64 Indonesian. 276 Linguistics. Michael. 87 Hokkien. 126. 3. Richard S. 124 Lancaster. 201.. 214–218. 189. 37. 41.127. Roger. 220. 25. 188. 197–198. 157. 216. 26. 249 Keesing. 78–80. 233. 124 Ifaluk. 271–274 Korean. 59–61. 233–235. 113.. 277. Ariel. 192 Lingua francas and pidgins 1. 165 Hoijer. 35 Malevich. 89 Javanese. 148–9. 29–31. 90. 155. 90. 153. 191 linguistic-Behavior Conventions. 35. 232. Edmund R. 178. 21. 59. 63. 274. 268–283 Kiriwinian. 194. 48. 60. 99. 40. 177. 5. 244 Jewish Mysticism. 238. 258 Jackson. 25. 89. 191–192 Haitian Creole. 85. 161. 161. 165. 162 linguistic reflexivity. 277–8 Johansen. 40. 155–158. Carl G. 32 Kant. John. 198–200. 29. Robert. 168. 277–281 Marxism. Claude. 26. Catherine. 61. 214. 149 Heine. 27. 244 Hegel. 161. 227–229. 65 linguistic ideology. 184. 228. Jean-Francois. 82. 15. A. 110 Jakobson. 155. 158. 241 Heryanto. 228 Harrell. 243 Hindi. 185–188 Layton. 280 Levy. Baber. 181. Michael. 254 Leach. Kasimir. 27. 3. 234. 182 Intersubjectivity and objectification in language. 38. 84. 117. Joseph. 125 Locke. 2. 40 Madurese. 149. 278 Japanese. Martha. 21.. 186 Latin. Jeffrey. 39. Julian. 61. 180. 2. 27 Kwakiutl. 191 Hawaiian and Hawaiians. 25. 277–9 Kalam. 146. 181 International Phonetic Alphabet. 193. 3. 220–222. 209. 191 Jung. 275–280 Leavitt. 94.. 3. 2. John. 162. 281 Lawrence. 98. 96. 260 Heidegger. William. 124. 277 Meeker. 237. Niloofar. 191.L. 191 Hebrew. 238. 219–221. 153 Italian. 6. 183. 229 Kachin. 8. 89. 189. Roman. 210.W. 64. 154. 241. 192 – 287 – . 190. Margaret.. 154 Iroquois. 53 Hermeneutics. George. 100. 14. 92. 122.

228 Schildkrout. W. 130 Postcolonialism. Martha. 158–161. Fred. Ferdinand de. 26. 209 Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. 120.. Andreas. 97. 278. 244 New World Languages. 34 Politics of language choice. Moroccan Arabic. 18 Picasso. 116. 136–151 Ortega y Gasset. A. 188 Rowland. 8. 276. Alois. 216. Eugene. 157. 113. 156. Willard. 256 Postmodernism. 199. 190 Phonetics. 157 Schafer. 228. 69. syntactic characterizations. 29. 16. 5.. 130 Nepali. 18–20. 167 Quine. 34. 214. 269. 20 Needham. David. 183 Philology.. 168. 25–27. 63–65. 7 Schneider. 49. 271–274. 186 Mundy. 149. 271–273 Micronesia. R. 118. 157. 76–79. 161. 120. 13 Sapir. Edward. 48 Sanskrit. Timothy. 101. 281 Protestantism.J. 26. 113. Mary. 168. 41. 10. Peter. 250 Montaigne. 205. 19–21. 47 New Testament. 112. Michel de. 215 – 288 – . Paul. 136 Ripinsky-Naxon. 112. 17. 38 Orthodox or Eastern Church. 87. 252. 164. 26. 277 Radin. 85. 269 Mitchaell. 32. Richard. 18. 254 Russian. 95 Saussure. Lawrence. 49 Persian. 96. 280 Morocco. Peter. 157–175 Native Americans. 69. 281. 2. 269–271. 252 National Identity and Language. 258 Nuer. 249 Morgan. 190 Musil. 244 Renaissance. 128. 6. 233 Quakers. Michael. 231. Edward. 93 Semiotics and linguistics of nations. 250 Pidgin English. Michael. 125. 9. Lewis Henry. 20. 78. 244. 25–27. 155 Septuagint. 31. 281 Newman. 55. Andrew. 251. 276 Pidgins. see Lingua francas and pidgins Polanyi. 4. 77 Radcliffe-Brown.T. 186 Mitchell. 202. W. 21. 17. 201–203 Nida. 219 Psychedelic Drugs. 163. 93. 93 Ricoeur. 27 Relativism. see Arabic Mottahedeh. 276. 256 Rivers. 270 Navajo. 9.Index Melanesian languages. 243. 217–242. 4. 282 Robinson. 67. 122. 199 Papua New Guinea. Roy P. 192 Myers. 66 Semiotic Transduction. Douglas. 30. 207 Omaha. 252. 112 Semantic vs.. 32 Pepinsky.. 76. 12 Nooter. Pablo. 122 Positivism. 276. 220. 226 Rubin. 269 Pawley. 256 Schjeldahl. 252. 124. 3. H.R. 269. 279–81 Semantic evaluation of mental states. 31. 2. 18 Samoa. 117. 13. 117. 258. 94. 82–85.H. 12. 277 Oral Tradition and storytelling. John Henry. 281 Religiously Altered States of Consciousness (RASC) and Religiously Interpreted States of Consciousness (RISC). 17. 7. 89 Said. 96. 37. 116. 17. 68. William. 83 Semiotic Transformation. Amedeo. 244 Ritual. Christopher. 276 Nenedakis. 111. 15 Rosen. 199. 169 Politics of national identity. 254 Schleiermacher. 59 Missionaries. 3. 8. 129. 92. Enid. 101. Rodney. 154. 260 Modigliani. 192 Mitchell. 2. 2. Jose. Paul.

250 Sociocultural contextualization of language. 96. 153. 87 Transcription. 2. 253 Tylor. 95. 76. 168 Sukarno. 21. 62. 13. 278. 117. 244 – 289 – . 198. 190–193 Translation architecture as a form of. 165. 186–188. 33. 89. 30 Stich. 33. 170 Sign language. 89. Robert. 183 Turkish influence on Greece/Greeks. 137–148 ethics in. 25. 117. 90 Steedly. 3. Benjamin. 127. 116. 259 Von Humboldt. 252 Vellacott. 83. 117 Turnbull. 18. 85. 257. 110. 28. 55. 10.. 162. 17 linguistic. 4. as. Wilhelm. 199 Smithsonian Institution. 116. 53 Turner. 6. 20 cultural. 124. 12. 56. 110. 188. 35 Vogel. 189 Whorf. Susan. 190 Siegel. 5. James. 1 Translation Studies. Brian K. 256. 94 Wolfson. 25 literary. Andrew. 116 Slymovics. 197. 191 Smith. 12. Oscar. 25. Ludwig. 109 Wilson. 13. into. 30 Synaesthaesia. George. 37 Wehr. 53. 56. Hans.. 75 Transliteration 177–196 Trobriand Islands. 117 intersemiotic. 8. Elliot R. 272–275. 258 Shryock. 52. Colin. 46. 45 Vietnamese. 230–231 Zoroastrianism. 121. 13. as. 20. 17. 84. Robert Farris. 169 Sundanese. 27. Stephen. 119. G. 91 Spanish.Index Shakespeare. 181 Swift. 1 Slavic influence on Greece and Greeks. Philip. Jonathan. 87. 177. 116. 4 Suharto. 181 Standard Average European (“SAE”) Languages. 14 psychological states. 148 Syntactic Functional Role Cognitive Theory. 279 Turkish. 156. 100 Tonkawa. 82–83 Southeast Asian Languages. 100 Spivak. 31. 79. 36. 164. 228. 9. 262 Structuralism. 37 cultural conventions. Edward. 56 Zen meditation. 38. 15. 157 Walbiri. 57. 38 Strother. 39. 207 Sperber. 80. 89.. 114 Steiner. Lawrence. 6 rendition of intentionality. 96. 91. 258. 261. 210. 48. 35. 58. Carl. 146 intra-lingual and inter-lingual. 158 Sound symbolism. 154. 170 Swahili. 18 ethnographic. 30. 5. 101 Translation Theory. 7. 20. 110 political factors. Mary. 81. 249. 185 Thompson. 63 Strehlow. 97 Yanamamo. 125 Venuti. 29. 142. Susan. 163. Wilfred. 78. 6. Victor. 13 relationships between minority and majority languages. 11. 21. 16 dialect. 89. 68 Thesiger. 96. 29. 243 Wittgenstein. 2. 110. 109 Wilde. 256 Tibetans. 3. 161. 37. 89. Dan. 136. 86–87 Sociolinguistics. 257. Zoe. 115. 258 Stendhal. 179–184. 40. 198. 229 Worora. 130 writing about culture. C.

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